To Smoke A Pipe and Worship God

In many Christian communities residing on this earth pipe smoking has always and continues to be appreciated for the benefits it brings to moments of relaxation, conversation, and mental clarity.

The Holy Smokers

It is no surprise that because of this demonization of tobacco many are hesitant to smoke or even think of tobacco without condemning it within the next breath. This does not exclude the multitudes of holy persons who suffered attacks during their lives and/or canonization process. Here are a couple brief stories about some of those saints:

During the beatification investigations of Joseph of Cupertino, John Bosco, and Philip Neri tobacco played it’s role. With the first two, the devil’s advocates argued that heroic virtue did not apply because they used tobacco. Joseph’s advocate argued, based on interviews with Joseph during his life, that his smoking was an aid to his holiness, helping him stay up at night for his devotions and extend his fasting. In the case of Philip Neri, the examination of his corpse during the investigation showed that the soft tissues of his nose had gone and so his body was not incorruptible. It was suggested that this was due to his heavy use of snuff. But these were weak arguments against their saintliness.

Text Box:  Bernadette Soubirous had childhood asthma and her physician prescribed snuff for it (her snuff box is on display at Lourdes, right). When she was sixteen, in school, she later remembered, “One Sister was shocked when I started everybody sneezing by passing snuff around while she droned away in French.” After she had entered the convent later in life, “She produced her snuff box at recreation one day, to the great scandal of a Sister. She cried out: ‘Oh, Sister Marie-Bernard, you will never be canonized.’ ‘Why not?’ asked the ‘snuffer.’ ‘Because you snuff. That bad habit almost disqualified St. Vincent de Paul.’ ‘And you, Sister Chantal,’ twinkled Sister Marie-Bernard in reply, ‘you are going to be canonized because you don’t indulge.’”

St. Pius X also had his tobacco use thrusted against him during his canonization process and life. He occasionally borrowed cigarettes from Swiss Guards. When reprimanding a bishop for his scandalous misbehavior with wine, women and song, the pope offered the errant bishop a cigar from the papal humidor on his desk. The bishop declined the offer with the protestation, “I do not have that vice, Your Holiness,” to which His Holiness replied, “If cigars were a vice, I would not offer you one, for you have quite enough vices already.”

St. John Vianney took snuff, often during his hours-long sessions hearing confessions. Padre Pio kept his snuff in a little pocket of his habit, and passed snuff around to his visitors. A biographer wrote that, “One evening, during a conference with oncologists, in the midst of a report on cancer research, Padre Pio turned to one of the men and asked, ‘Do you smoke?’ When the man replied in the affirmative, Pio, pointing his finger censoriously, chided, ‘That’s very bad,’ then, with almost the same breath, turned to another doctor and asked, ‘Have you got any snuff?’”

The Reminders that Come from Smoking a Pipe

“A pipe is to the troubled soul what caresses of a mother are for her suffering child.” – Indian Proverb

We live in a culture in which ritual is constantly being replaced with instant gratification. Instead of g1sex lives, we have pills. Instead of cooking, we have ‘directions for assembling’ at fast- food restaurants. Instead of political thought we have political parties. We must reclaim the in depth tradition and ritual of sitting by a fire and turning relaxation into a hobby, a sacramental winding down. Light your pipe and raise your thoughts to how Jesus Christ is the light shining in the darkness, and how that darkness shall not overcome it.

We smoke and we relax in order to prepare ourselves to more greatly and powerfully build up the kingdom of Christ. We know that life is short, look to your smoke and be reminded of your death. The art pipe smoking is, itself, a memento mori.

Turn this into an act of prayer, as well as relaxation.

A List of Christian Pipe Smokers

What proceeds is an annotated list of some theologians, pastors, evangelists, Christian authors, and other personalities in some way connected to Christendom who enjoyed taking part in some form of tobacco, whether it be the pipe, snuff, cigarettes or cigars.

  • Bach, Johann Sebastian- the aforementioned genius. (Pipe)
  • Barth, Karl- Do you really think he couldn’t have written all 98 volumes (I approximate, of course) of Church Dogmatics without the help of Lady Tobacco? (Pipe)
  • St. Bosco, John– popularly known as Don Bosco, was an Italian Roman Catholic priest of the Latin Church, educator and writer of the 19th century. (smoke and snuff)
  • Chesterton, G.K.- The man who made the quote that divides the sections for this site, one of my favorite Christian authors. Not only did he smoke pipes and cigars, but could also allegedly write one thing with his pen sitting at a desk, while simultaneously dictating an entirely different piece of writing to his secretary. (Pipe and cigar)
  • Colson, Chuck- owns one of C.S. Lewis’ pipes. (Pipe)
  • Erskine, Ralph- Scottish Presbyterian. (Pipe)
  • Frassati,The Blessed Pier Giorgio– Italian Catholic social justice advocate and anti-fascist.  Called the Man of the Eight Beatitudes by Blessed John Paul II (who beatified him in 1990); don’t think he was a pipe smoker?  Here is some definitive proof: proof
  • St. Joseph of Cupertino– an Italian Conventual Franciscan friar who is honored as a Christian mystic and saint. (pipe)
  • Kierkegaard, Soren- a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic, and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. (cigar)
  • Ligouri, Alphonso– an Italian Catholic bishop, spiritual writer, scholastic philosopher and theologian, and founder of the Redemptorists, an influential religious congregation. He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI. (snuff)
  • Lewis, C. S.- Lewis’ Narnia books took shape in a pub o’er many a pint. He is also the author of many works that help philosopher and theologies in Christian theology to date.
  • St. Pius X – the head of the Catholic Church from 4 August 1903 to his death in 1914. (cigarettes)
  • St. Neri, Phillip– known as the Apostle of Rome, was an Italian priest noted for founding a society of secular clergy called the “Congregation of the Oratory”. (snuff)
  • Ogden, Schubert- Methodist minister. Author of “May a Christian smoke?” {The Log 9, no.14 (1959): 2}, and I believe his answer was “yes.” (Pipe)
  • St. Padre Pio – a Catholic Capuchin priest from Italy who is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church. (snuff)
  • Blessed Pope Pius IX– born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was the head of the Roman Catholic Church from 16 June 1846 to his death in 1878. He was the longest-reigning elected pope in the history of the Catholic Church — totalling nearly 32 years. (snuff)
  • Scott, Gene-  this dude was crazy. He charged admission into his church. He had a Bible study TV show, on which he was fond of smoking a cigar and drinking a glass of wine. Favorite Bible study passage: you guessed it, the Wedding Feast of Cana. (Pipe)
  • St. Soubirous, Bernadette–  a miller’s daughter born in Lourdes, France, and is venerated as a Christian mystic and Saint in the Catholic Church. (snuff)
  • Spurgeon, Charles- the aforementioned Cigar aficionado. (Pipe)
  • Tolkien, J.R.R.- Catholic, as we all know. Tolkien was the man. (Pipe)
  • St. Vianney, John– a French parish priest who is venerated in the Catholic Church as a saint and as the patron saint of all priests. He is often referred to as the “Curé d’Ars”. (snuff)
  • Williams, Charles- probably the least known. (Pipe)

Edifying Thoughts of a Tobacco Smoker by Bach

Whene’er I take my pipe and stuff itg1
And smoke to pass the time away
My thoughts, as I sit there and puff it,
Dwell on a picture sad and grey:
It teaches me that very like
Am I myself unto my pipe.

Like me this pipe, so fragrant burning,
Is made of naught but earthen clay;
To earth I too shall be returning,
And cannot halt my slow decay.
My well used pipe, now cracked and broken,
Of mortal life is but a token.

No stain, the pipe’s hue yet doth darken;
It remains white. Thus do I know
That when to death’s call I must harken
My body, too, all pale will grow.
To black beneath the sod ’twill turn,
Likewise the pipe, if oft it burn.

Or when the pipe is fairly glowing,
Behold then instantaneously,
The smoke off into thin air going,
‘Til naught but ash is left to see.
Man’s fame likewise away will burn
And unto dust his body turn.

How oft it happens when one’s smoking,
The tamper’s missing from it’s shelf,
And one goes with one’s finger poking
Into the bowl and burns oneself.
If in the pipe such pain doth dwell
How hot must be the pains of Hell!

Thus o’er my pipe in contemplation
Of such things – I can constantly
Indulge in fruitful meditation,
And so, puffing contentedly,
On land, at sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.



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