Beer holds a venerable place in our Catholic history, with some of the greatest breweries in the world being founded and run by Catholic monks.
The name catholicbeer means “universal beer,” and also is a fun homage to the ones to whom all beer drinkers are indebted, the Catholic monastic Orders who brought beer brewing to its pinnacle (most commonly Trappist and other Cistercian off-shoots).
Beer makes you sleep easy.
Easy sleep makes you not sin.
Not sinning gets you into heaven.
Christianity brought with it the emergence of monasteries as centres of education and learning, where brewing knowledge could accumulate, quality standards could improve, and the craft of brewing could evolve, for the first time in Europe, into a true profession.
V. Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini. (Our help is in the name of the Lord.)
R. Qui fecit caelum et terram. (Who made heaven and earth.)
V. Dominus vobiscum. (The Lord be with you.)
R. Et cum spiritu tuo. (And with thy spirit.)
Oremus. (Let us pray.)
Bene+dic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisiae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi, et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti; ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corpus et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
(Bless, + O Lord, this creature beer, which thou hast deigned to produce from the fat of grain: that it may be a salutary remedy to the human race, and grant through the invocation of Thy holy name; that, whoever shall drink it, may gain health in body and peace in soul. Through Christ our Lord.)
St Brigid, who legendarily changed dirty bathwater into beer, would regularly give it to the lepers to lighten their suffering; and in the words of St Columbanus, “It is my design to die in the brew-house; let ale be placed to my mouth when I am expiring so that when the choir of angels come they may say: ‘Be God propitious to this drinker.’”
Sean P. Dailey, The Lost Art of Catholic Drinking
St. Arnold (580-640), also known as St. Arnulf of Metz, was a seventh-century bishop of Metz, in what later became France. Much beloved by the people, St. Arnold is said to have preached against drinking water, which in those days could be extremely dangerous owing to unsanitary sewage systems — or no sewage system at all. At the same time, he frequently touted the benefits of beer and is credited with having once said, “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.”
Wise words, and St. Arnold’s flock took them to heart. After his death, the good bishop was buried at a monastery near Remiremont, France, where he had retired. However, his flock missed him and wanted him back, so in 641, having gotten approval to exhume St. Arnold’s remains, they carried him in procession back to Metz for reburial in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles. Along the way, it being a hot day, they got thirsty and stopped at an inn for some beer. Unfortunately, the inn had just enough left for a single mug; the processionals would have to share. As the tale goes, the mug did not run dry until all the people had drunk their fill.
Now, I’m not saying that Catholic drinking involves miracles, or that a miracle should occur every time people get together to imbibe. But good beer — and good wine for that matter — is a small miracle in itself, being a gift from God to His creatures, whom He loves. And as G. K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy, “We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them.” In other words, we show our gratitude to God for wine and beer by enjoying these things, in good cheer and warm company, but not enjoying them to excess.
More on St. ArnoldSt. Brigid of Ireland, like many monks and nuns, was good at making ale and beer (and was known to miraculously multiply it).
Saint Brigid’s Feast:
“I would like a great lake of ale for the King of Kings;
I would like the people of heaven to be drinking it through time eternal.
I would like the viands of faith and pure piety;
I would like the flails of penance in my house.
I would like the people of Heaven in my house;
I would like the baskets of peace to be theirs.
I would like the vessels of charity to distribute,
I would like caves of mercy for their company.
I would like good cheer in their drinking,
I would like Jesus, too, to be among them.
I would like the Three Marys of illustrious fame,
I would like the people of Heaven there from all parts.
I would wish that I were a rent-payer to the Lord,
That I should suffer distress, and that He would bestow on me a good blessing.
I would like.”
Oh, and it’s not the normal word for beer or ale, it’s corm/cuirm — a strong barley beer or ale that was indispensable for a good feast with lots of drinking.
I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us.
I would like an abundance of peace.
I would like full vessels of charity.
I would like rich treasures of mercy.
I would like cheerfulness to preside over all.
I would like Jesus to be present.
I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts.
I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me.
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say: Behold a man that is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners.
”…the authentically Catholic life is one of fasting and feasting, to the point of cheerfulness, in anticipation of the great wedding banquet in heaven.”
Sources and More readings:
Recommended Reading: The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Wine, Whiskey and Song