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“Birra Nursia”: The Celestial Beer of St. Benedict’s Birthplace

Ora et labora—prayer and work—is a favorite motto of the Benedictines. But did you know that part of the labora of the Benedictines of Norcia, Italy, is brewing beer?

Is there anything these monks can’t do?

You may have heard of the Benedictines of Norcia (Nursia), Italy. Not only do they call St. Benedict’s birthplace their home—not only do they chant heavenly notes seven times a day (and record it for our benefit!)—not only do they live by the work of their own hands: part of that work is to brew some of the finest ale you’ll ever taste.

The community at Norcia has been living the Benedictine ideal for more than 1,500 years. Their main work is prayer, for their own salvation, for that of their benefactors, and for that of the whole world. They live a strictly-ordered life centered on prayer, with manual work as a necessary element of their monastic schedule.

In addition to the everyday tasks involved in keeping up the monastery and its grounds, religious communities often ply additional trades to support themselves. The Benedictines of Norcia sell CDs of their beautiful chanting, and, since 2012, have operated a brewhouse. Here they concoct Birra Nursia—Norcia beer. It comes in two brews: bionda, a pale ale, and extra, a dark one.

Anything made by monks tends to be good, and Birra Nursia is no exception—their extra brew is, in fact, award-winning!

The reason for the quality, perhaps, is that the beer is not just a hobby or a way to make money. Rather, it is a way of living out the Rule to which these men have dedicated their lives. The perfection of the Rule is their goal, so the perfection of its elements must be as well. Moreover, everything they do, they do for Christ, and one ought to serve Christ with the very best. Who would have thought that perfect beer could become a part of perfect sanctity?

All of us can aspire to the ideals of St. Benedict through striving to do all things for Christ and in Him. A good soundtrack helps. To bring the Benedictine spirit to your everyday work, we recommend the above-mentioned CD from the Norcia monks: Benedicta, a collection of 33 Marian chants that can assist you in transforming the mundane into a channel of grace. Order your copy here at The Catholic Company!

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