Philip Laubner, CRS

The Saint That Never Drank Coffee

Colleen Hutchison

Coffee seems to be the life blood of a lot of people these days. Hot or cold, pumpkin-spiced or straight black, we can’t get enough of the energizing beverage. So what does a saint from the 12th century have to do with it, when coffee hadn’t even been discovered by that time?

It is believed that St. Drogo was born in the town of Epinoy, France. His father, a wealthy man, had passed away before he was born, and his mother died in childbirth, making him an orphan at birth.

As he got older, Drogo felt called to give his inheritance to the poor and adopt the life of a shepherd. He moved to a small village in France named Sebourg and soon became a renowned shepherd, helping others to learn the trade and growing in holiness in his austere and solitary life. During this time, he made nine pilgrimages to Rome, developing a crippling and disfiguring hernia from the hardships.

There is one recorded miraculous account that occurred in St. Drogo’s later years of solitude. According to numerous stories, the church in Sebourg to which Drogo’s cell was attached caught fire. The villagers were unable to extinguish the growing flames and urged Drogo to abandon his cell and save his life. St. Drogo refused, saying, “I have made a vow to God, and I will fulfill it! If it pleases the Divine Goodness that I should escape the flames, His will be done!” Drogo remained in prostrated prayer in the midst of the fire. The church nearly burned to the ground, but as the fire died it was discovered that St. Drogo remained unharmed. The villagers rebuilt the church and St. Drogo’s cell, where he remained until he died. Tradition also holds that St. Drogo had the gift of bilocation, as villagers reported seeing him in the fields tending his flock or praying and attending Mass in the village at the same time.

It is apparent that Drogo lived a holy life worthy of a saint, but where is the connection to coffee and how did he become the patron saint of it? Catholic Online identifies him as the patron saint of shepherds and illness for obvious reasons, but why coffee? Although this saint was claimed by coffeehouse keepers as early as the mid-1800s, there is no clear answer, but one can speculate a few possible reasons. St. Drogo only drank warm water during his years as a recluse. He also survived a fire, and coffee beans are transformed but not destroyed by being burned. Or perhaps St. Drogo’s ability to be in 2 places at once related to coffee’s power to energize people to do twice as much as they normally would! For reasons unclear, St. Drogo has been invoked by coffee lovers for centuries, so the next time you enjoy your favorite cup of joe say a prayer to our favorite mysterious patron saint.

O’Connell, Christian. “Rediscovering Saint Drogo of Sebourg.” Crisis Magazine. 16 Apr 2015.  http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/rediscovering-saint-drogo-sebourg