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Theology of Coffee

by Jacqueline Shraeder, Peru ’13
Seattle University ’13
Religion Teacher, San Pedro Apóstal Parish

When I was still a youngster in high school, my gaggle of gal pals and I loved to bring each other Starbucks in the morning. Nothing was better than the sugary winter drink of a white chocolate mocha, under the guise of coffee. Nothing made me feel better than my cup of ‘joe’ in hand, flaunting the red holiday cups and demonstrating my maturity as a coffee drinker. A few years passed, and I moved to Seattle to go to college. There, I soon became acquainted with real coffee. My flirting with real coffee quickly escalated into a full on relationship. I tried to learn more about the history, the roasting styles, the economics, and growing patterns—even going so far as to spend a summer in Costa Rica volunteering on a farm that grew coffee. Now, in my post-grad life, I am a Jesuit Volunteer outside of Cusco, Peru. Here my budget only allots for Nescafé or other brands that do not offer the top tier coffee in regards to business practices and ethics. But this drop in quality does not necessarily suspend my relationship with coffee in the morning.

I have heard used the phrase, either giving or receiving the comment, “Looks like someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” I’m usually too tired to fire back a snappy comment, but it would be something along the lines of, “My bed is fine! My coffeemaker isn’t working today!” Is it a bit of an addiction? Easily. But is coffee something more? Yes. Would I even say that it is a spiritual, sensory experience that creates a space for me to greet the morning, myself, others, and God? Yes.

Ignatian spirituality suggests invoking our senses and imagination to encounter God and ourselves. When I am holding a cup of coffee, the warmth radiates through my hands, forearms, and shoulders. The smell wafts through the air from the dark caramel color, almost black. The whole experience is sensual, and helps my sleepy self greet the day with gratitude and a tranquility that I feel from this warmth. It induces a peaceful demeanor, which invites me to meet God and my own thoughts. In these moments, I review the previous and forthcoming days, reflecting on both the harder and easier parts in order to create my hopes for the new day.

Coffee helps facilitate my conversation with God and myself in the morning, therefore making it quite literally a vessel in which I see, taste, feel, and talk to God. Dorothy Day was once quoted saying that “My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms.” She identified this as a way to ready herself for the day and her work through simple practices. With the work toward which Day committed her life, it was vital for her to find daily practices that facilitated conversation between herself and God. What are our daily rituals that help us encounter ourselves in the morning? Is it the comfort of a mug, a morning stroll, the dog scratching at the door? By finding God in the daily habits and becoming mindful towards what could be mundane, I have found some of my most precious moments throughout the day. Here’s to a cup of steaming coffee and rich conversations: may the silence be rich in conversation.