The Best Catholic Drinking Book of All Time?

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Drinking Matters: Drinking with the Saints, Regnery Publishing, Russell Kirk, and That Old Bookseller in Niles, Michigan

Medieval monasteries gave us modern brewing as we know it.

Whiskey was invented by Irish monks and prescribed medicinally as a cure for “paralysis of the tongue.”

Only two monks at any time know the recipe for Chartreuse.

St. Junipero Serra and the Franciscans gave us the California wine industry (I’m sure Gavin Newsom and his unlocked winery are grateful).

Those are just four Catholic alcohol snippets from Michael P. Foley’s definitive Catholic alcohol book, Drinking with the Saints (2015).

Marie got me the book for Christmas. I’d seen it advertised, of course, but never bought it.

I regret it now.

The book is stunning in every respect: its binding, its formatting, its content, the writer’s style. I can’t recommend it enough. And the price is only $11.93 at Amazon (sorry). For a hardcover with this quality binding, I would expect a $30 retail price.

The book is published by Regnery History, which I always try to support.

Regnery Publishing was started by Henry Regnery. It has long been a mainstay of conservative publishing.

Russell Kirk, in fact, wrote The Conservative Rout with Regnery in mind as the publisher. Regnery loved the book but said the title was too defeatist. Kirk and Regnery considered different titles, “The Long Retreat,” “The Conservative Course,” and “The Conservative Tradition.” Finally, in 1952, Kirk came up with The Conservative Mind. Brad Birzer, Russell Kirk: American Conservative.

For those unacquainted with The Conservative Mind, I strongly suggest you buy a copy, even if you consider yourself a liberal. It’s a masterpiece. Every time I take it off my shelf and start to flip through it, I feel good, almost remembering when I first picked it up at a used bookseller located just outside Niles, Michigan, which is located about ten miles from Notre Dame, where I was at law school in the late 1980s.

I spent hours at that store. I can’t even remember how I found it. It was located on the outskirts of town, in a rural-type residential neighborhood (one of those areas with neighbors, but each house located a quarter mile from each other), in an outbuilding of the owner’s house.

The owner was always there. He was a older, quiet guy. Friendly, but quiet. I think he liked silence and respected others’ desire to be left alone to browse. I always got the impression that he opened the store after retirement, like it was a labor of love, not need. Because I never talked with him except to exchange pleasantries, I never learned his story, which I regret to this day.

About ten years after graduating, I was in the area and decided to check out the store again.

I couldn’t even find it. It was remarkably inauspicious (like I said, I don’t even know how I found it in the first place), and my brain’s auto-map had forgotten how to get there, despite the dozen trips I made there while I lived in South Bend.

When I want to revisit the store now, I open The Conservative Mind. It still has the old book smell of that used bookstore.

From Henry Regnery, on the importance of The Conservative Mind:

What was lacking was a general concept that would bring the movement together and give it coherence and identity. It was the great achievement of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, published in 1953, to provide such a unifying concept. Kirk offered convincing evidence not only that conservatism was an honorable and intellectually respectable position, but also that it was an integral part of the American tradition. It would be too much to say that the postwar conservative movement began with the publication of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, but it was this book that gave it its name, and, more important, coherence.