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Patron saints of beer, pray for us

August 20, 2009

OK, now for something that we can all agree on. Over the past couple of days I have been trading emails with a Catholic theologian who is also a home brewer. He recently published a new book, and so I congratulated him and said that it was now time to kick back with one of his brews and relax. I attached the text of the following “Blessing of Beer” from the Roman Missal:

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: And With Your Spirit.

Let us pray.
Lord, bless + this creature, beer, which by your kindness and power has been produced from kernels of grain, and let it be a healthful drink for mankind. Grant that whoever drinks it with thanksgiving to your holy name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.”

In his response, he included the following prayer/poem from St. Brigid of Ireland:

I should like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I should like the angels of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal.
I should like excellent meats of belief and pure piety.
I should like the men of Heaven at my house.
I should like barrels of peace at their disposal.
I should like for them cellars of mercy.
I should like cheerfulness to be their drinking.
I should like Jesus to be there among them.
I should like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
I should like the people of Heaven, the poor, to be gathered around from all parts.

In searching out some information on the prayer, I came across this “Saints of Suds” page. Legend has it that St. Brigid worked in a leper colony and when the place ran out of beer and those under her care begged her for more, she transformed her bathwater into beer.

There are multiple stories about St. Arnold of Metz that involve beer. Here are two of them:

According to legend he ended a plague when he submerged his crucifix into a brew kettle and persuaded people to drink only beer from that “blessed” kettle. He is reported to have said “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world”.

There are multiple versions of a tale about his providing beer to the people. The story is told of porters moving his body after building a tomb for his relics/bones for people to visit. A tired porter overcome with heat uttered a plea to God for a cool refreshing beer. No sooner had this request been made than copious amounts of cold beer shot out of the casket they carried, drenching all and quenching their thirst.

God’s design for health care reform? Maybe not. But certainly the legends of these “beer saints” represent one more small way in which the sacramentality of Catholicism has expressed itself in our traditions. And they certainly could be added to the long list of reasons why I would not trade my Catholicism for anything.

Many many (MANY!) more examples are listed on the webpage.

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12 Comments
  1. doug permalink
    August 21, 2009 12:07 am

    It’s amazing what you can do with just hops, barley, water and yeast. I’ve gotten homebrew to taste like like grapefruit. I’ve gotten it to have a taste like pine or fir trees. I’ve gotten tiny bubbles in it, or big bubbles. So much you can do if you know the biochemistry, and with such simple and natural ingredients. In my mind it’s proof of God and His benevolence, and that in many respects goes for all of the culinary arts, not just brewing.

    I could go on about how the natural world and the laws of science prove God’s existence and his love, in great detail and at great length, but it would likely bore everyone here.

    Thanks for a good post about God and beer!

  2. j. edwards permalink
    August 21, 2009 1:15 am

    Seriously: I read this and then got sad when I realized I was out of beer.

  3. standmickey permalink
    August 21, 2009 2:02 am

    Apparently the Holy Father himself is a big fan of beer: http://www.americanpapist.com/2008/01/pope-benedict-receives-holy-grail-of.html.

  4. David Raber permalink
    August 21, 2009 6:38 am

    If there is not a brand of beer called “Brigid’s Bathwater,” there ought to be. I can about picture the label now–with an illustration bordering on the salacious.

  5. August 21, 2009 7:51 am

    David – I think I saw a reference to one. I’d also like to see one called St Arnold’s Casket!

  6. August 21, 2009 9:23 am

    Funny, they never mentioned this aspect of St. Brigid when I was growing up!

  7. August 21, 2009 12:55 pm

    I can’t drink beer, or any form of alcohol, without unpleasant effects. I realize this makes me un-Catholic, with that good red wine /where the sun doth shine business. But I don’t mind others partaking, so perhaps its not as bad as all that.

    For future reference: if any of you have occasion to make an in-kind donation to a religious community, remember that Sisters who liked beer before convent days most likely continue to like it post-entrance. And it would be against poverty for them to let donations, (eg., a six pack) go to waste. ;)

  8. Joseph permalink
    August 21, 2009 2:05 pm

    MM,

    That’s because you are an American, not an Irishman.

  9. August 21, 2009 2:41 pm

    That’s because you are an American, not an Irishman.

    Yeah?

  10. David Wheeler-Reed permalink
    August 21, 2009 3:28 pm

    As a member of the Dominican order… I can tell you that a lot of the nuns–who are in their 90s–enjoy more than the occasional glass of beer… I’ve seen several downing Maker’s Mark.

    Good for them!

    David

  11. Dayn Perry permalink
    August 22, 2009 12:41 am

    “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin

  12. Joseph permalink
    August 24, 2009 11:52 am

    [Not a helpful comment. - m.i.]

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