Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Review: Michael Foley's Drinking with the Saints

Michael P. Foley. Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour. Washington, DC: Regnery History, 2015. Hardback. xx + 487 pp. List: $26.99. Available at Also available in Kindle format.

For me, one of the greatest joys of the Sacra Liturgia 2015 conference was finally meeting in person the legendary liturgical calendar expert, Augustinian thinker, and pillar of Baylor, Dr. Michael P. Foley. Dr. Foley has been a long-time contributor to the cause of liturgical piety and restoration through his print publications, including a series of wonderful articles in The Latin Mass Magazine, mostly concerning the traditional calendar and its many obvious and subtle virtues.

Given his intimate knowledge of the traditional calendar and its saints, seasons, cycles, feasts, fasts, and odd corners and curiosities, and given that he is a Catholic who proudly follows in the footsteps of such thoughtful wine-bibbers as G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, Dr. Foley's new book, Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour, has the quality of something both delightfully surprising and utterly inevitable. In this beautifully-produced tome filled with saints' biographies, classic works of art, quips, quotations, and toasts, and drink recipes new and old, the extraliturgical celebration of the liturgical year has acquired a fantastic new resource. After all, if, as the Council reminded us, the liturgy is the beginning and the end, what about the middle? We should not forget the saints after we have left the church building, but bring them into our times of leisure and recreation as well.

While I would hesitate to recommend Drinking with the Saints for RCIA programs, as it might send the wrong signal, it is a must for all Catholics who appreciate these words of Scripture: "Thou dost cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man's heart" (Ps 103:14-15). (As an aside, I can also recommend a book that is a kind of secular/scientific counterpart to Foley's, namely, Amy Stewart's The Drunken Botanistwhich I have found both fascinating and entertaining, and which has often left me in a state of wonder at the bounty the Lord has left for us in his good creation.)

The publisher, Regnery History, offered me some data on the book, which I now pass along to you. In Drinking with the Saints the reader will discover:
  • over 370 entries, covering all major holidays and feasts of the Catholic calendar;
  • almost 350 cocktails, from forgotten classics to original creations
  • a wide array of beers and ales, including ones made by monks
  • hundreds of wines named after the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints
  • the Catholic origins of whiskey, tequila, sparkling wine, and more
  • everything you need to know about the drinking preferences of the saints (and believe me, they had their preferences!)
Below are a few enticing photographs to whet the appetite. To read more, visit the book's page, which makes available, among other things, an app with searchable liturgical calendars, recipes, and indices.

Congratulations to Dr. Foley on this entertaining book, which should become a standard feature of Catholic households and their apostolate of hospitality for friends and strangers alike. Na Zdorovie! Prost! Cheers! 

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