Beer is part of Monks’ new evangelisation outreach

Even before retired Pope Benedict XVI set up a pontifical council for new evangelisation and convoked a world Synod of Bishops on the theme, a new group of Benedictine monks was using Latin and liturgy to reach out to those whose faith was weak or nonexistent.

Now they’ve added beer to the blend, and people are flocking to the monastery in Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict, about 70 miles northeast of Rome in the Umbrian countryside.

But for the 18 members of St. Benedict’s monastery, life is still about prayer.
”If the prayer doesn’t come first, the beer is going to suffer,” said Father Benedict Nivakoff, director of the Birra Nursia brewery and subprior of the monastery.

The monks in Norcia initially were known for their liturgical ministry, particularly sharing their chanted prayers in Latin online– — with people around the world.

But following the Rule of St. Benedict means both prayer and manual labor, with a strong emphasis on the monks earning their own keep.

After just a year of brewing and selling their beer in the monastery gift shop and through restaurants in Norcia, financial self-sufficiency seems within reach, and the monks are talking expansion.

“We didn’t expect it to be so enormously successful,” said Father Cassian Folsom, the U.S. Benedictine who founded the community in 1998 and serves as its prior. “There’s been a huge response, and our production can’t keep up with the demand and the demand continues to grow.”

But even with the talk of expanding the brewery, and perhaps exporting some of the brew to the United States, the Mass and the liturgical hours are still the centerpiece of the monks’ lives.

“Our life is very much unified by the liturgy, which forms a kind of skeleton around which everything else takes shape,” Father Folsom said.

Many visitors tread a path between the church and the gift shop and, increasingly, from the crates of beer to the church. Continue reading

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