Growing, keeping, and sharing faith in a post-Christian culture

“Evangelizing culture means bringing faith into the center of how we live,” says R. Jared Staudt. “I see the evangelization of culture as starting out as shaping one’s own life through prayer, suturing at our lives with God’s presence.”

(Image: Priscilla Du Preez/Unpslash.com)

R. Jared Staudt PhD, has been serving as Associate Superintendent for Mission and Formation for the Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor for the Augustine Institute. He now works for Exodus 90. He is author of Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option (Angelico Press) and the editor of Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age (Catholic Education Press). He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

Jared Staudt

He recently spoke with CWR about evangelization, education, culture, and the current state of the Church.

CWR: How would describe the work you did for many years promoting evangelization and Catholic school renewal in the Archdiocese of Denver?

Staudt: As a theologian, it was somewhat unexpected to take a position with a diocese. On the other hand, I had served as a DRE at two parishes and as a professor of evangelization and catechesis at the Augustine Institute, so there was a foundation for the work.

Now that I’ve finished six and a half years at the Archdiocese, I would say that it was an incredibly fruitful time. I began working on the implementation of restored order Confirmation, including a two-year curriculum for second and third grade, and then established a new program for catechist formation. I was asked to move into the Catholic schools office four years ago and focused on bringing a stronger Catholic vision to formation and the curriculum. I created programs for teacher formation, especially a four-day Catholic Worldview Seminar, a training program for future principals, a system for evaluating mission effectiveness, and an initiative to form disciples within our schools.

CWR: What will your new position with the Exodus 90 program entail?

Staudt: I am starting a new position as Director of Content with them. Exodus has had a huge impact on thousands of men. The core of this experience is ninety days of prayer, asceticism, such as fasting (including from media) and cold showers, and fellowship with other men. The powerful impact comes from the combination of these elements, not in isolation but experienced alongside of other men in community. My role will focus on building from an impactful 90 days to providing more consistent opportunities for growth in building good habits and lasting community.

We hope that Exodus will be something that can accompany men more consistently in living a strong Christian life, battling through the many obstacles we face in our culture.

CWR: You have worked in helping start a number of schools in Denver. What is the focus of these schools?

Staudt: One of my students from the Augustine Institute, Rosemary VanderWeele, implemented a classical curriculum at Our Lady of Lourdes in Denver and oversaw a general renewal centered on the Catholic faith. Our kids have been attending there since 2011 and we knew we wanted to continue the same kind of experience in high school. We wanted daily Mass, a fully classical curriculum (versus a track or program), and many opportunities for living out and experiencing the faith.

Working with other families, I co-founded the Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Victory, which is now in its fourth year. We chose to affiliate with the Chesterton Schools Network since its curricular vision aligned with ours, and it emphasized the fine arts and daily Mass. We added a Formation Friday component, which gives a weekly opportunity for service, prayer, talks, additional experience of the arts, outdoor activities, and other elements of human formation. I was asked to help found another school in the Ft. Collins region in northern Colorado, and the St. John Paul II High School is now in its third year.

CWR: There is great deal of debate on how the culture should be evangelized. What do you think is the best way to evangelize culture?

Staudt: I define culture simply as a way of life. Evangelizing culture means bringing faith into the center of how we live. Otherwise, we will fail into a latent secularism that keeps faith and worship to the side as one aspect of life, mostly private, rather than the organizing principle of the whole.

I see the evangelization of culture as starting out as shaping one’s own life through prayer, suturing at our lives with God’s presence. Then there must be judgments, including about dress and technology, about what truly glorifies God in our lives and what eclipses him and distracts us from his presence. Culture is a shared way of life, and it cannot remain individual. We can build culture in our family life, in schools, and also in the parish when we form practices with others for living the faith.

There is no clear blueprint for building culture, but it will flow from a shared commitment to living the faith in all that we do with others. I do explore the various dimensions of building culture—creation, art and beauty, family life, education, and society—in my book, Restoring Humanity.

CWR: You have written a curious book on beer. What is the “Beer Option”?

Staudt: The book uses beer as a means of exploring Catholic culture. Although some sneer at focusing on a topic like beer, there is actually a rich history that goes back to the beginning of civilization, which includes even the Bible. Beer as we know it was perfected by Benedictine monks, as they provided a sanitary and nourishing drink for themselves, pilgrims, and the sick. The monks remain among the best brewers in the world today and The Beer Option examines how we can learn from them to integrate all of our life and work toward the glory of God, using beer to foster festivity, fellowship, and evangelization. The topic of beer also addresses issues of craftsmanship, the economy, consumerism, moderation (and I explore the distinctions between alcohol and drugs), and building up local community.

CWR: What is your favorite beer?

Staudt: Generally, I seek out beers made by monks or in conjunction with a monastery. I love learning the history and culture behind the beers. That is how I became interested in beer to begin with, especially through the Benedictine connection. The Belgian Trappists are definitely my go to beers, especially Orval and Chimay. I also really appreciate Birra Nursia (made by monks, many of whom are Americans, outside of St. Benedict’s hometown of Norcia, Italy). I’ve tracked down some harder to find monastic beers from Mt. Angel Abbey in Oregon, Tynt Meadow Trappist from England, and from the Benedict Abbey of St. Wandrille in France.

CWR: How do you, as a husband and a father of a large family, balance life and work? How do you see your family life connected to the subjects of your research?

Staudt: I see both my family life and career as a response to the Lord’s call to follow him with my whole life. It is undeniably difficult to adequately lead and provide for a large family in our culture. I wouldn’t say that I’ve figured out a great work-life balance, but my spirituality as a Benedictine oblate provides a constant inspiration to stay rooted in prayer (myself and as a family) and to see my work as part of the praise that I offer God.

In my writing and teaching about Catholic culture, I have come to the conclusion that the family needs to be at the center of our rebuilding efforts. Parents overwhelmingly have the largest influence on the faith life of their children and overcoming secularism by reuniting faith and life can occur most successfully in the home. Families need help and support in maintaining faith in light of the overpowering challenges of technology and media, and, in my opinion, the Church is not focusing enough on family ministry. I certainly try to live a robustly Catholic life with my family, with the support of strong Catholic schools, although it is quite an adventure.

CWR: Many Catholics today feel demoralized by current state of the Church. What would you say to a Catholic who has lost trust in the Church’s leadership?

Staudt: There are no easy answers. I think it would be hard to find a Catholic who has unwavering confidence in the Church’s leadership right now. Life in the Church requires faith in its supernatural foundation and its identity as the Body of Christ. Although the Church certainly needs reform (as is always the case), we can become too obsessed with the failures of bishops and the Vatican in a way that overshadows our own spiritual life and the needs of our parish.

It certainly helps to be rooted in the tradition of the Church, and I draw consolation from the great legacy of the saints, finding refuge in their life and writings. There is great scandal when leaders openly question or depart from the truth of God’s revelation, although this cannot shake our own faith, which does not depend on the holiness of our leaders.

In my mind, the crisis of the liturgy overshadows all other problems in the Church, as the beating heart of the Church’s inner life. There is a great refuge in the Church’s liturgical tradition (East and West), although we find a battle ground here as well. I pray that the Lord will bring order and peace to his Church.

CWR: Many Catholics are now fatigued by the “internet wars” among traditionalists, conservatives, and liberal Catholics on social media. Do you use social media? Can it be a force for good?

Staudt: A little more than two years ago I smashed my smartphone and gave up Facebook. Both had a greatly freeing effect. I am still on LinkedIn, although that does not have the same addictive and divisive qualities of other forms of social media. I do keep too keen an eye on Catholic news outlets, though I don’t follow blogs or podcasts very faithfully.

I think many of these outlets can be a source for good, and I’m sure we could all think of examples of how they have been, although we also need to be aware of the ways in which our time on social media is influencing us. Too many studies have now pointed out that we are addicted to technology and how this influences our mental and emotional health (let alone our spiritual life). Catholics need more time for prayer, genuine leisure, and real friendship. I think we would be better served offline, building real community.

• Related at CWR: “The Beer Option and feasting, fasting, and friendship” (April 12, 2019)


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About Jesse Russell 14 Articles
Jesse Russell is the author of a number of articles on twentieth-century Catholic political thought as well as works on the poetry of Edmund Spenser. He is assistant Professor of English at Georgia Southwestern State University.

7 Comments

  1. Beer? Really?!

    I grew up Protestant. My churches advocated teetotalling. No one can predict who will become addicted to alcohol and die from the addiction, and who will be able to enjoy it without addiction and other health issues. I married a man who was also from a non-drinking family. In our years as Protestants, we enjoyed amazing fellowship and friendship with people, and we didn’t use alcohol. (He died of COVID in 2020 at age 62 before the vaccines were available.)

    I have yet to find that kind of friendship and fellowship in the Catholic Church after 18 years of Catholicism. I love Holy Mother Church, but I miss having a church family to hang out with. I feel more comfortable with Protestants as I know there will be no liquor at their functions and fellowships, and I think that Catholics feel uncomfortable with teetotalers, even if we don’t say anything other than, “No, thank you. Do you have any soda, or just water will be good.”

    My biological family were all teetotalers except for a few who chose to drink–and they were skid row alcoholics. There are those for whom alcohol is a poison because we have an innate weakness that results in addictions to those substances that we like. I currently drink around 6 diet sodas a day, and I cannot foresee ever stopping this unless I am forced to choose between death and diet soda. I think that if I ever tried and liked alcohol (not likely-it stinks), I would probably be dead within a year due to addiction.

    My dad told me that when people drink, they talk too much and say things that are better left unsaid. When he was working in a factory (30 years), he would go out with his friends to the bars, and the bartender would give him free food and soda because he would help drunks out the door and get them home safely. Dad told me that often, his friends would tell him “secrets” about their marriage or job that they shouldn’t have told him, but the alcohol freed their tongue. The next day, they would sheepishly ask him, “Last night, did I say anything about…” and my Dad would nod. At that point, these friends would be under his “power”–they knew that he could ruin them by telling others what they had told him while under the influence of alcohol. So they had to kowtow to him–not that he ever made any demands from them. But they didn’t know if he ever would. Dad told me to never put myself in a position where I am under someone else’s control

    I’m not saying that Catholics need to stop drinking alcohol. But I wish they would.
    I miss being with people who don’t drink. I very seldom attend Catholic socials and dinners. It’s not fun to be with people who I can’t tell if they are sincere or just influenced by the drug. I don’t understand why they can’t just have fun and fellowship without alcohol. I especially don’t understand why all the women’s fellowships and social involve wine?! Ick. I feel like an outcast at these events because I’m holding a Diet Coke, and I feel ill from smelling the alcohol.

    I don’t generally speak out against alcohol because I’ve seen what happens when ex-Protestants try to suggest an alcohol-free homelife and church life. We get attacked. And although we love our Catholic faith, we feel like strangers in a strange land. I often attend Protestant events just to be with people who are having fun without alcohol.

    This note is a real risk for me. Catholics don’t understand. I think alcohol is just one more thing that keeps Catholics and Evangelical Protestants separated.

    I’m not saying that Protestants would get in line to convert to Catholicism if Holy Mother Church went dry. And I’m not saying that Protestants never drink–although I know for a fact that majority of my Evangelical Protestant friends never drank alcohol and didn’t have a “hidden stash” in their homes and were NOT lying about it! Yes, Catholics have actually told me that most Protestants DO drink and are lying when they say they don’t drink! I don’t associate with Catholics who say things like that about people they don’t even know.

    I don’t know the answer. I don’t think there is one. I try to be tolerant and kind and keep my mouth shut, since I am a convert and grateful that God led me (and my late husband and children) to the One True Church, the Catholic Church. But since you have a “Reply” option, this is my Reply and I’m not backing down and I don’t apologize for the way I feel about alcohol. I think it has the potential to do more harm than good and for that reason, should be avoided.

    My kids drink, BTW, and I fear for them. Both have gained weight and they blame their food. They eat healthily and are physically active. I blame their alcohol–the stuff is highly-caloric. But I don’t say anything about it. It’s their choice. I just wish they would choose to be alcohol-free. I see the addictive tendencies in both of my kids and it worries me. But I don’t say anything. Just like I don’t say anything in my Church. It doesn’t make a difference if I say anything, and just makes people mad. Really? Mad over…a drink? That should really make alcohol users think.

    • “No one can predict who will become addicted to alcohol and die from the addiction, and who will be able to enjoy it without addiction and other health issues.”

      We can become to nearly anything: food, soda, sugar, sex, money, power, fame, etc., etc. But are all of these things bad in themselves?

      Scripture itself declares:

      Thou dost cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
      and plants for man to cultivate,[a]
      that he may bring forth food from the earth,
      15 and wine to gladden the heart of man,
      oil to make his face shine,
      and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

      Christ turned water into wine at Cana. Was he feeding an addiction? Encouraging sinful behavior? Of course not.

      Moderation, prudence, and self control are essential, as the Catechism notes: “The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine.” (CCC, 2290)

      And this, from my 2019 interview with Dr. Staudt about his book “The Beer Option”:

      CWR: Drinking, as you discuss, can be abused. What virtues should inform how we view and partake of beer and other alcoholic beverages?

      Staudt: I look at how Catholic drinking should be informed by feasting, fasting, and friendship. By feasting, I don’t mean simply having a good time, but engaging in festivity, which orders our drinking to God in communal thanksgiving and praise. Fasting keeps our drinking in perspective, taking times to deny ourselves of the goods of eating and drinking to show that God is more important than them and to make sure we do not become too attached. Genuine friendship keeps our drinking ordered to others, drawing us into conversation and relationships, rather than pulling us toward escape.

      Temperance (or moderation) is the key virtue that directs our eating and drinking. It guides us to avoid the extremes of drinking too much (a very common vice) and too little (a Puritanical rejection of the legitimacy of drinking alcohol). Alcohol is clearly a good recognized by the Bible (especially as Jesus has used it for the Eucharist), but it also makes clear the danger of drinking too much, to the point that Paul lists drunkenness as a sin that can keep us from entering the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Cor 6:10; Gal 5:21). If we cannot drink in moderation, we must refrain from alcohol. When rightly consumed, however, alcohol can contribute to a healthy and holy life.

    • Just two very-marginal side comments here:
      First, the original “skid road” was a log slide in early Seattle leading from upland forest lands to waiting lumber mills and ships in Elliot Bay. The goings-on along this red-light district included, but were not limited to the devil alcohol.

      And second, about those who openly “tell…’secrets’ about their marriage,” I’m reminded of the cell-phone addiction and a loud and complaining female at the front of the bus–totally engrossed (both senses) in her conversation–such that even in the back of the bus all the other riders knew stuff she would never mention even one-on-one, were it not for that isolating electronic thingy linking her ear to her foghorn mouth.

    • Mrs. Sharon,
      I do hear you. And I hear you about Christian fellowship & hospitality. It’s definitely something Catholics need to work on. Our separated Protestant brethren can often set a better example in that.
      My daddy’s family were Scotch & Scotch Irish Protestants who functioned a whole lot better minus alcohol. Some people with ancestry from that part of the world seem to inherit bad genetic wiring for alcohol & though we may scoff at old timey temperance movements, “dry” counties, & no Sunday sales of alcohol there were valid reasons behind those efforts in certain communities.
      But not everyone has the same history or weaknesses. Nowhere does scripture forbid the consumption of beer or wine-only drunkenness. So, it’s one of those prudential judgements based upon one’s family history & personal weaknesses. If something is an occasion of sin, we should avoid it. But we can’t assume everyone has that same history or weakness. We’re all made differently.
      God bless!

  2. Anyone whose a connoisseur of good beer must be good at theology. Reason is he doesn’t settle for the cheap over the counter pale, effeminate stuff. “We will fail [is it fall?] into a latent secularism that keeps faith and worship to the side as one aspect of life, mostly private. The privatization of religion most are guilty of [until in later years I reread St Catherine of Siena’s Dialogues and woke, yes woke from the eternal compromise]. In the seminary the quip was, to get your religion over with so you could enjoy the rest of the day.
    “A little more than two years ago I smashed my smartphone and gave up Facebook. Both had a greatly freeing effect” (radical but indication of Staudt’s commitment rather than wishy washy faith). Although, he doesn’t face up to the value of internet wars between conservatives, liberals et al on Catholic websites. Supposedly the answer is Jared Staudt does contribute frequently to CWR indicating he must find purpose in the warring debates.
    At any rate eccentricism is likely a good feature in today’s mind numbing woke world where annihilation of all that is tradition leaves us in an empty fog. The only escape from the now technical inducement to a virtual reality life living on your recliner is indeed living the faith, the fire of Christ’s truth pouring through our veins.

  3. Read Mrs Whitlock’s advice to abstain. There were times in my youth when I would have wholeheartedly agreed, sick as a dog swearing I would never drink the stuff again. But then another day another day of indulgence. Liquor is a kind of truth serum, we may become uninhibited wanted to share our hidden self, feelings of outrage, at times guilt. On that score she’s right. Then there’s Jesus and the six giant jugs of the best vintage ever. Although proprietous Mary, staid, model of purity imposing her will on her divine son to meet the demands of the happily celebrating whose cups are empty.
    Let’s face it, drinking wine [or superb beer with Jared Staudt at some remote monastery] in cultures where it’s a food, wine that in scripture said to warm the heart is a blessed thing. When I finally matured and learned to handle the ancient prophetic elixir, and avoid becoming a fool I became convinced festive managers Mary and Jesus were quite wonderful. The sacred wine I consecrate, now the blood of Christ absorbs that warmth and conviviality of sharing good vintage, transforming what is good of itself into what we mortals hope to experience, what is heavenly and unsurpassable.

    • Over indulgence should be avoided. Once heard a sermon where the wine got turned into grape juice! Sounds like a Brant Pitrie turning the brothers and sisters into cousins (nieces and nephews)! How some relish the idea of changing God’s word.

      Remembering the old adage, “Work is the curse of the drinking class”.

      1 Timothy 5:23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)

      Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

      Romans 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

      Psalm 104:14-15 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

      Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

      Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

      1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

      Blessings

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