In honor of today, September 9th, “Buy your priest a beer day,” I present to you the story of a thirsty nun who had an affection for beer, as any good Irishman does.
The story goes that Brigid worked in a leper colony in a time when beer was the drink of choice. Water sources were often polluted and unsafe for consumption, resulting in sickness and even death. But alcohol provided a nearly sterile solution to the hydration problem. And because beer is ripe with grains, it also served much needed nourishment. Brigid found that the precious fermented was running dangerously low and had to find a creative way to ensure the people around her wouldn’t thirst (or starve) so she prayed for a miracle. And a miracle she received; the communal bathwater was miraculously transformed into communal beer. If you’re like me, you will never look at beer the same way again. I mean the color of beer and the color of communal bathwater are probably identical, but alas, people love their beer (I will stick to wine and/or frozen beverages thank you very much)
Brigid’s malted marvel’s didn’t end with one tub full of communal beer, no folks. Another legend says that there was a group of clerics visiting the leper colony when they were low on beer, so Brigid prayed again and...more beer from bathwater. And yet another story where Brigid had clearly had enough of the whole lack of brew dilemma and supplied nearly twenty churches with enough ale to last from Holy Thursday to the end of Easter, despite only having one barrel to her name.
Could this be a conflated tale, a parable even, akin to Jesus turning water into wine? We may never know. But what we do know is that St. Brigid of Kildare, one of the main patron saints of Ireland, loved her some beer. And because we love us some priests, let’s raise a frothy glass to all the saints at the table, especially St. Brigid for her valiant miracle-brewing efforts.
And let’s not forget that there is a 10th Century poem dedicated to St. Brigid and her giving “a lake of beer to God.” You’re welcome.
I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.
I'd love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I'd put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.
White cups of love I'd give them
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I'd offer
To every man.
I'd make Heaven a cheerful spot
Because the happy heart is true.
I'd make the men contented for their own sake.
I'd like Jesus to love me too.
I'd like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around.
I'd give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.
I'd sit with the men, the women and God
There by the lake of beer.
We'd be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.
To that we say AMEN!
Now go buy your priest a beer, or a gift card to your local market that sells individual bottles of craft beer like I did for my favorite priests because we're still in the midst of a pandemic and you shouldn't be going out to the bar. Or have a physically distanced malted beverage in your backyard because we still need to be at least 6 feet away from each other and wearing masks. Remember that social distancing and mask-wearing is a sign of love and respect just as much (but probably more) than buying your priest a beer!