MIAMI | An archbishop at a bar? Catholicism and beer?
That’s just what happened Oct. 15 when, under the glow of neon beer signs, Archbishop Thomas Wenski spoke about the relevance of the Catholic faith in today’s world. His audience: 189 people who filled the Homefield Sports Bar & Grill in Kendall.
The occasion was Theology on Tap, an attempt to bring religious answers to young adults whose questions may be keeping them out of church on a regular basis.
COURTESY PHOTO | Danielle Neaveill
Two participants enjoy beer and fellowship before the start of Theology on Tap with Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
It is not as much of a novelty as some might think: Monks made the first microbrew, and as C.K. Chesterton once said, “In Catholicism, the pint, the pipe and the cross can all fit together.”
The archbishop began with a prepared talk
that addressed two popular trends in modern spirituality, “new age” and the “prosperity Gospel.” He called the former Gnostic and the latter heretical.
He noted the growing number of Americans who identify themselves as spiritual but not religious, according to a recent study by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life.
“Americans have become individual consumers of religion,” Archbishop Wenski said, “picking their religious identity a la carte, as it were. Many people … construct for themselves made-to-order creeds in which they profess belief in Jesus Christ but not in the Church.”
The archbishop went on to explain the importance of participation in the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, which is the central act of the Catholic faith and the highest manifestation of Catholic spirituality.
“Where do we encounter Jesus today?” he said. “In our daily prayer. In our active participation in the life of our parish. In the liturgy and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, our most intimate and most profound communion with Christ.”
The event was organized by Rick Dominguez, a parishioner at Holy Rosary-St. Richard in Palmetto Bay who said he wanted to invite others to “tap into something greater.”
His first encounter with Theology on Tap occurred when he lived in Peoria, Ill., he said. At the end of a work day, he stopped by a local bar where he overheard a conversation on the Holy Spirit. When he looked over, he noticed a priest and a group of people engaging in theological conversation over a beer.
The idea to bring Theology on Tap to Miami stayed with him in the years that followed, becoming something of a “one man mission” that came to fruition this year.
COURTESY PHOTO | Danielle Neaveill
Archbishop Thomas Wenski poses with Rick Dominguez, who brought Theology on Tap back to the Archdiocese of Miami this year.
Two Theology on Tap sessions have taken place so far, both at Rodbenders Bar and Grill in Cutler Bay. The first one was led by Father John O'Grady, a retired priest of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., the author of 22 books on theology and scripture, who currently lives in Miami Shores. He spoke on "Faith Seeking Understanding." The second one was led by Father Bob Vallee, a professor of philosophy at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. His talk centered on the topic "Dead Man Walking: The Catholic Church's position on the death penalty."
Among those who attended those sessions were some who do not practice the faith or are self-proclaimed atheists. They got their questions answered, which is the main goal of Theology on Tap: to provide a less intimidating atmosphere where fallen-away Catholics can bring their questions to the table.
Dominguez was hoping that just as he had accidentally walked into a Theology on Tap event, others might do the same and listen in on the conversation.
The event this week drew people, 21 and older, who saw the archbishop in an unfamiliar setting. Archbishop Wenski did not drink beer, but those present did get a taste of his sense of humor and personality through his straight-forward responses to questions posed by the audience.
Among the many questions asked were: What made you want to be a priest? What do you think of the new pope? What is your favorite prayer?
FAQs on Theology on Tap
- Theology on Tap is a national program begun by two Catholic priests — Father John Cusick, a young adult minister, and Father Jack Wall — in Arlington Heights, Ill., in June 1981
- It is now a licensed program that has spread to more than 180 parishes and dioceses in the U.S. — including Venice and Orlando in Florida — and at least six other countries; the concept is also being used by other Christian denominations
- Theology on Tap sessions were first held in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in the early 2000s
- By taking part in Theology on Tap, Archbishop Thomas Wenski joins a distinguished group of fellow bishops, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia
Those in attendance included parishioners from Holy Rosary-St. Richard, St. Louis, St. John Neumann, St. Augustine and members of a young adult group, Juventutem Miami. The young adult groups from St. John Neumann and St. Augustine, who usually meet on Tuesdays, simply switched their venue from the parish to the bar.
“It was a nice event,” said a Homefield waiter who admitted listening to the talk during his shift. “I really enjoyed it.”
The management of Homefield also appreciated hosting a full house on a Tuesday night.
Louise Lieberher, marketing manager, called it a “wonderful event,” and said it was a pleasure hosting the archbishop.
“We appreciate how kind everyone was,” she said. “The archbishop was amazing.”The next Theology on Tap will take place Nov. 12 with Father Manny Alvarez, administrator of Our Lady of Divine Providence Church in Sweetwater, at a location to be announced. Look for information at Theology on Tap Miami’s Facebook page.