Tens of millions of Americans can’t imagine starting the day without a cup of coffee. Glenn McDonald points out what most people have never suspected, that coffee was once a serious spiritual issue in the Catholic Church. Around 600 years ago a coffee craze struck the Middle East. Muslim mystics discovered that caffeine was an excellent way to stay awake for midnight worship.
Coffee became so essential in Turkey that a woman could actually divorce her husband if he didn’t provide her sufficient beans. When coffee finally arrived in Europe in the 1500’s, authorities expressed concern. Young men had begun to hang out at newfangled “coffee houses” – essentially the Starbucks of the late Middle Ages. Their conversations sometime veered toward radical ideas.
A number of Italian priests imagined coffee to be a Muslim plot – a hot, satanic brew that had been conjured up to poison the Church. Enter Pope Clement VIII, who did something entirely sensible. In the year 1600 he drank a cup of coffee. “This Satan’s drink is so delicious,” he is reported to have said, “it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall fool Satan by baptizing it.”
Thus coffee began a long and successful run as the West’s most popular morning beverage. Today it’s impossible to picture church gatherings without it. With all due respect to java, there’s an even better way to start the day.
Before your feet hit the floor, before your mind begins to wake up to the reality that sleep mode is over and it’s time to plunge into the crazy blur of everything on your list of things to do, just stop.
Be still. Take a breath. Give the day away.
Some people offer a short prayer: “God, thanks that you’ll be with me, wherever I go, all day today.” Picture God meeting you at every juncture. In every conversation, in every planned or unplanned event. Or you might say, “Open my eyes to something wonderful today.” Or, “Help me remember to be kind.” Or, “Thanks that you’ll be in charge today; please forgive me whenever I try to grab the wheel.”
The simplest affirmations of trust can make all the difference over the next 24 hours. They can even make that first sip of coffee taste richer.
-Rev Dr William Lewis