October ‘Saints, Monks & Beer’ pilgrimage will immerse pilgrims in Catholic culture

Aaron Lambert

The history of Catholicism and beer is a fascinating one, combining a litany of libations with that of the saints and the rich spiritual tradition of the Church.

Those intrigued by any of these things may want to consider partaking in the “Saints, Monks & Beer” pilgrimage Oct. 19 – 29. The pilgrimage is intended to explore the Catholic culture in Belgium and Northern France and will be led by Dr. R. Jared Staudt, Catechetical Formation Specialist for the Archdiocese of Denver. Father John Riley, chaplain for the Augustine Institute, will serve as the chaplain for the pilgrimage.

“I’m aiming for a total immersion in the Catholic tradition, and that’s going to be through art, prayer, the saints, through food and drink, and really experiencing the life of the monks,” Staudt said.

The pilgrimage will also coincide with the release of Staudt’s new book, The Beer Option: A Catholic Guide to Beer and Culture, which is set to be released early October through Angelico Press.

The pilgrimage will begin in Paris and make its way to various parts of France rife with solid ties to the Church, including various cathedrals, churches and places associated with some of France’s great saints, not the least of which is St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Of course, the famous Louvre Museum is also on the itinerary, as well as a night at the Solesmes Benedictine monastery.

From France, pilgrims will make their way to Belgium, which is where the beer lovers on the pilgrimage will truly be satisfied. Pilgrims will visit several different Trappist monasteries throughout Belgium, including Westvleteren Trappist monastery, home of Westvleteren 12 beer (voted the best beer in the world in 2014), and Scourmont Abbey, home of Chimay Beer. Not only will they be able to taste some of these beers directly from the tap, they’ll also be given the chance to pray in the monasteries with the monks.

“The monks created the first large-scale breweries in Europe, and they essentially began brewing beer as we know it today,” Staudt said. “If you look at our brewing process today, the monks perfected that.”

Pilgrims will have the unique opportunity to witness this process firsthand, but it’s also something Staudt explores at length in his new book. Contrary to popular belief, beer has played an integral role in Catholic culture and the history of the Church, and Staudt hopes to enlighten those who thought otherwise and come to a fuller understanding of what it really means to be Catholic. A copy of his new book will be given to each pilgrim, which will serve almost as a supplement to the pilgrimage.

“We’re not just tourists, we’re pilgrims through the culture, and the culture, in an integrated way, will be our guide through the tradition,” Staudt said. “I really would just like to lead Catholics more deeply into Catholic culture.”

To learn more about the pilgrimage, join Dr. Staudt and Father Riley for an evening of Catholic culture at De Steeg Brewing (also the home of Blind Faith Brewing) at 4342 Tennyson St, Denver, CO 80212 on April 10th at 7 p.m. Come out and support a new Catholic-owned brewery and learn more about how the monks have shaped beer throughout the centuries. Light food will be provided and beer, of course, will be available for purchase.

Saints, Monks & Beer: The Catholic Culture of France and Belgium
Oct. 19 – 29
Cost: $3,678 ($350 nonrefundable deposit due at time of registration)
To register, visit rtijourneys.com or call 303-563-6261

COMING UP: Getting ready for Synod-2018

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The headline on the March 3 story at the CRUX website was certainly arresting — “Cardinal on charges of rigged synods: ‘There was no maneuvering!’” The cardinal in question was Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, and not only were his voluble comments striking, they were also a bit disconcerting. Did I simply imagine the uproar on the floor of the Synod on October 16, 2014, as bishop after bishop protested an interim report generated by Baldisseri and his colleague, Archbishop Bruno Forte, that did not reflect the discussions of the previous two weeks? Were the complaints about the suffocating Synod procedures Cardinal Baldisseri outlined prior to Synod-2015 an illusion? Didn’t thirteen cardinals write Pope Francis in the most respectful terms, suggesting alterations in those procedures to ensure the open discussion the Pope insisted he wanted?

But, hey, memory is a tricky thing, and this is the season of mercy, so let’s let bygones be bygones and concentrate now on Synod-2018, which will discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment. Those are very important topics. The Church in the United States has had some success addressing them, despite challenging cultural circumstances; so perhaps some American leaders in youth ministry and vocational discernment could be invited to Synod-2018 to enrich its discussion, on the Synod floor and off it (where is where most of the interesting conversations at these affairs take place).

Curtis Martin is the founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), which is arguably the most creative campus ministry initiative in the post-Vatican II Church. FOCUS sends recent college graduates back to campuses as missionaries and has had such success in the U.S. that FOCUS missionaries are now working in Europe. There’s a lot the bishops at Synod-2018 could learn from Mr. Martin’s experience.

Then there’s Anna Halpine, president of the World Youth Alliance: a network of pro-life young people all over the world, who witness to the joy of the Gospel and the Gospel of life in an extraordinary variety of social and cultural settings. WYA has also designed and deployed innovative educational programs and women’s health centers that, building out from the Church’s teaching on the inalienable dignity of the human person, offer life-affirming alternatives to the moral emptiness of too many elementary school curricula and the death-dealing work of Planned Parenthood on campuses. Surely there’s something to be shared at the Synod from this remarkable enterprise.

Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa was the director of campus ministry at Texas A&M for eleven years, where St. Mary’s Catholic Center has set the gold standard in traditional campus ministry and created a model for others to emulate. Over the past twenty years, Konderla and his predecessors have fostered more vocations to the priesthood and religious life than that school with the golden dome in northwest Indiana, while helping many Aggie men and women prepare for fruitful and faithful Catholic marriages. Bishop Konderla would make a very apt papal nominee to Synod-2018.

Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, has taken up the mantle of the late Dr. Don Briel in creating a robust, integrated Catholic Studies program on his growing campus. Shea’s goal, like Briel’s, is to form mature young men and women intellectually, spiritually, and liturgically, so that they can be, in the twenty-first century, Pope Francis’s “Church permanently in mission.” He has things to say about how to do this, and Synod-2018 should hear them.

Then there is Father Thomas Joseph White, OP, a banjo-playing, bourbon-appreciating theologian of distinction who (with his Dominican brother, Father Dominic Legge) has created the Thomistic Institute, to bring serious Catholic ideas to prestigious universities across the U.S. The Institute’s lectures and seminars fill the intellectual vacuum evident on so many campuses today — the vacuum where thought about the deep truths inscribed in the world and in us used to be. Father White is being redeployed by his community to Rome this Fall, so he’ll be a #64 bus ride away from the Vatican. The Synod fathers should meet him, and perhaps he and Cardinal Baldisseri, an accomplished pianist, could jam.  

So by all means, let’s have “no maneuvering” at Synod-2018. But let’s also have some American expertise there, for the good of the whole Church.