Patron Saint of Coffee?

Because I work everyday on coffee, and because I am personally obsessed with finding out-of-this-world coffees for myself, I am generally known around CRS as “the coffee guy.” (The Baltimore Sun actually referred to me in an article a few years ago as the “CRS coffee czar.”) This means that every time coffee or Fair Trade is referenced in the news, I get clippings and copies and links from dozens of people accompanied by notes like, “Have you seen this?” or “I saw this and thought of you.” This is very thoughtful, of course, and helpful, since I don’t always catch everything printed, spoken or broadcast about Fair Trade and coffee.

Occasionally, someone brings me something totally unique, like last week when Daniel Lizarraga, director of our Southwest Regional Office in San Antonio, brought me a greeting card with the image of St. Drogo, who is identified as the “patron saint of coffee.” Wow! The card bears an image not terribly unlike the one below of a shepherd holding a cup of coffee.

stdrogologo1.gif

I had never heard of St. Drogo, so decided to do some research. The image led me to think that perhaps St. Drogo had lived or spent part of his ministry in Ethiopia, where legend has it that coffee was first discovered by a shepherd who noticed that his flock would carry on after eating the ripe red cherries on an unidentified plant. Not so. I Googled St. Drogo and discovered that was born and spent his entire life in France as a hermit and shepherd. Beyond that, however, I found little to explain St. Drogo’s connection with the black brew.

Catholic Forum does identify St. Drogo as the patron saint of coffeehouse owners(!), but does not explain in its brief summary where or how his life brought him into contact with this particular class of entrepreneur. In fact, everything I found on St. Drogo explained that he was afflicted with an unidentified malady that physically deformed him and made him frightening to townspeople and drove him into a life of hermitage — hardly the kind of raconteur we picture at the vibrant coffee houses of medieval Europe!

Catholic Online, meanwhile, makes no mention of coffee, and identifies St. Drogo as a patron of shepherds.

Wikipedia not only fails to mention any coffee connection, but suggests that he didn’t even drink it, spending the last 40 years of his life in seclusion and “surviving only on barley, water and the Holy Eucharist.” Hmm.

Despite this dearth of credible evidence linking our hero with the nectar of life, one woman religious was so compelled by the purported connection between St. Drogo and coffee that she started the St. Drogo Foundation, which serves people in need in coffee-growing countries overseas with the support of its donors, including the Kansas City-based coffee importer, roaster and wholesaler The Roasterie.

Do you know something about St. Drogo? If so, ping us at fairtradeblog@crs.org and enlighten us!

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