Alcoholic beverages usually don’t come to mind when Catholics think about their favorite saints.

However, members of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Penndel have been enjoying Cocktails with the Canonized, a monthly gathering where they drink some spirits while learning about the life of a Catholic saint. On tap for Wednesday, Dec. 13 is St. Ambrose and the Honeybee Cocktail. St. Ambrose is known as the patron saint of beekeepers, and the drink is made with rum, lemon juice, and honey.

The idea for this saintly series came from Eric Harper, Principal of Our Lady of Grace School in Penndel. He and his girlfriend Carolyn were living in different states when they started dating, and they were looking for creative activities for their online dates.

Drinking with the Saints book. (Screenshot)

They each had copies of Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour by Michael Foley, a Catholic theologian and mixologist, so they began picking saints to learn more about while enjoying the drinks associated with the saint.

The couple chose the drinks based on their ability to easily find the ingredients and how they thought the drink would taste. “For the saints we had this whimsical category we called their ‘baller status,’ or how cool they were as a person,” Harper said. “The deciding factor was based on how much we wanted to learn about the person.”

One saint that made a lasting impression on Harper was St. Damien of Molokai, an American saint who died after ministering to lepers in Hawaii in the late 1800s.

“I didn’t know about St. Damien until when we made a drink of his from the Drinking with the Saints book, and now I have a devotion to him,” Harper said. “There’s something so powerful about his story because he was willing to go to Hawaii even though that meant he was probably going to die there.”

Approximately 20 people attended the first gathering  last month to discuss the life of St. Charles Borromeo. Harper and Father Thomas Nasta, senior priest at the parish, shared information about St. Charles with the attendees who made a drink called Monk’s Rope Coffee. Harper explained that the name of the drink originates from St. Charles’ habit of walking around with a rope tied to his neck as a form of penance. The drink is made with coffee, Frangelico liqueur, heavy cream, and Creme de Cacao.

Harper proposed this series because he wanted to help parishioners gain a better understanding of the saints. “I think the beauty of the Catholic Church is in the lives and the witnesses of the saints, and I wanted to share that with the people in the community,” he said.

Msgr. Joseph Prior, Pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, was receptive to this novel way for his parishioners to learn about various saints and be inspired by them.

“​​I thought it was a good way to encounter different saints and look at their lives and see them as examples and what we can learn from them and the way they lived the Christian life,” Msgr. Prior said.

“Saints are our friends on this journey. They help us along the way, not only through intercessory prayer, but also by their lives, by their witness, which still speaks to us today.”

The gatherings give parishioners the opportunity to socialize while learning more about how the saints lived their lives.

“We’re all disciples of Christ, so we can learn from each other and from the saints who lived joyful lives despite the challenges they faced,” Msgr. Prior said. “I think people find that the lives of the saints speak to where they are in life, and when they learn more about that person, they hear about the impact that person is still having on people’s lives.”

The opportunity to evangelize is another benefit of the Cocktails with the Canonized series.

“It’s imperative that we find ways to bring people to the church and keep them in the church,” Harper said. “If having a cocktail and talking about a saint brings somebody to the church, then it’s done its job as a group.”

The Cocktails with the Canonized event is open to adults 21 and older, and it will be held in the St. Katherine Drexel Room in Our Lady of Grace School. For more information, contact Eric Harper at