“We can evangelize through beer … and surprise people by showing them how beer has a Catholic pedigree and how faith can enter into all elements of our life.”
Professor, author, and speaker, Dr. R. Jared Staudt has a Catholic outreach that makes his name and works familiar nationally, maybe even globally. After all, Dr. Staudt, now a resident of Castle Rock, Colorado, and the Director of Formation for the Archdiocese Denver and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Augustine Institute, has been one very busy man.
He writes for Crisis Magazine among others plus assorted websites such as Those Catholic Men and for his own with its blog, Building Catholic Culture. He has written several books with a definitive Catholic focus, but his most recent book has a beguiling title and subject: The Beer Option: Brewing a Catholic Culture Yesterday & Today, and in this work Dr. Staudt delves through the history of beer and brewing. He even writes about beer and brewing in the ancient world, including the Bible; how beer is an expression of culture and should be enjoyed in friendship and festivity; and how beer as an expression of monastic culture. And he even touches on the spirituality of beer!
A native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Dr. Staudt was raised in a nonpracticing home, but about 25 years ago, he felt God calling him to convert, and that he did. “After my conversion,” he said, “I dived into learning about the Church’s tradition. I first read St. Faustina’s diary and then the writings of Pope John Paul II, the Bible, the Catechism, and the lives of the saints.” While still in high school, he also spent a year as an exchange student to Poland, drawn there by its amazing saints. That year really threw him into a cultural immersion of his faith. “I used to walk everywhere,” he said. “I walked around the city every day, and I loved the beautiful Baroque Catholic churches. I just fell in love with Catholic history and art.
“Afterwards I spent two years in seminary before attending the University of St. Thomas,” he said, “where I studied Catholic Studies. It was an interdisciplinary program drawing upon theology, history, philosophy, art, and literature. I then attended Ave Maria University where I earned my doctorate in theology.”
With a growing family, Dr. Staudt began his teaching career eleven years ago, with an ardent focus on helping people to live their faith. “I work with Catholic schools, forming teachers and leaders, and teach classes on Church history, art, and culture,” he said. “My goal is to build culture by having our entire lives shaped by our faith. … I do this through school culture, retreats with families, writing, and by leading pilgrimages.”
Then along came Dr. Staudt’s beer option, which he believes can draw people into Catholic culture. “I was influenced by the Benedictines and their role in rebuilding Western culture,” he said. “Part of what the monks did was to establish largescale brewing in Europe and perfect its methods, like at the monastery of St. Gallen in Switzerland, which had three breweries. The monks also were the first to use hops in beers for flavor and preservation.”
The Benedictines offered beers for pilgrims and served their brews in hospitals and to their guests. They also, he added, used their beers for the poor and sick because their brews were healthy and filled with nutrients. “It provided a sanitary and nourishing drink,” he said. “St. Hildegard wrote about its medicinal qualities.” Building on the Benedictine legacy, he said that Trappist monks are still considered among the best brewers in the world.
As Dr. Staudt explained about the book’s purpose, he wanted people to understand beer’s potential for cultural renewal, by connecting to Catholic traditions, strengthening the local and home economies, creating spaces to gather and celebrate, and evangelization. As he concluded, “We can evangelize through beer by drawing people in to talk about faith in a more comfortable setting. We can surprise people by showing them how beer has a Catholic pedigree and how faith can enter into all elements of our life.”
Note: Dr. Staudt recommends sampling Birra Nursia, the monastic beer made by American monks living at St. Benedict’s hometown of Norcia, Italy. They are using the proceeds to rebuild their monastery devasted by an earthquake in 2016. Visit www.birranursia.com.