A convert to Catholicism, Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, restaurant critic, and cookbook author, who is passionate about every aspect of the food world—from interviewing chefs to supporting local farmers and to making the connection between food and faith
Cheers! Here’s to clinking glasses with Michael Foley, devout Catholic and author of his newly released book, Drinking with Your Patron Saints (Regnery, 2020). The third in his series of interesting Catholic cocktail books — plus numerous other Catholic-focused volumes — Foley knows his faith! But his learning pathway has been an uphill climb.
Raised in a Catholic family in Southern California, Foley said “My parents were very devout. My father was Irish-German and my mother French Canadian with a rich Catholic heritage. We did not talk a lot about Catholicism but practiced it without any challenges.”
As a youngster, Foley went to Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School in Montclair, California in the ’70s, at a time when attitudes and lifestyles were changing in that state. “I remember seeing how our parish changed,” he said. “The sanctuary was redone, and the tabernacle was removed from the sanctuary and put into a room out of sight.”
Next, he attended the Catholic Damien High School, also in California, but what disappointed the young Foley were the tepid religious classes. Because he wanted more theological instruction, he entered the Jesuit Santa Clara University, also in California: “There I was taught outright heresy,” he said. “Although I had some excellent teachers for whom I am profoundly grateful, overall it was an unsatisfying diet.”
His final stage of formal learning was attending graduate school at Boston College, where he studied theology. “After several years it finally dawned on me,” he said. “With a Ph.D. in theology, I could either become a priest or a college professor. Since I was not being called to the priesthood, I figured that God wanted me to become a teacher.” Foley started out his career by teaching for three years at Notre Dame with a contract post-doctorate position.
When that position ended, friends at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, providentially told him that teaching positions were available. “When you have a Ph.D. in Catholic theology, you never think of getting a job at the world’s oldest and largest Baptist university,” he said. “Moreover, this was in 2004, when Waco was still suffering from its association with David Koresh and long before Chip and Joanna Gaines rebooted the city’s reputation. ‘Are you kidding?’ I thought. But I applied, got an interview, and fell in love with the place.”
Now a professor of patristics in the Honors College, Foley is well versed in Catholicism, which makes him quite qualified to write about drinks and the Faith. He and his wife, Alexandra, have six children, all of whom are or have been homeschooled. “We like to observe the many customs for various feast days with our children,” he said, “but Alexandra and I also enjoy an evening cocktail. Eventually we put the two together, dedicating a drink to a particular saint.”
Foley noted that picking the right cocktail to celebrate older saints was challenging. “We knew which drinks Pope John Paul II liked,” he said, but because the personal tastes of early saints are not well-known, he “had to research their home region or a pertinent and representative symbol in Christian art.” He recalled someone asking him why he picked a particular drink for a saint that was featured in his first cocktail book, Drinking with the Saints. When he gave the explanation, the man replied, “Well, that’s a bit of a stretch.”
“Make no mistake,” Foley told him, “the entire book is a stretch. It’s about booze and saints. What did you expect?” In an endorsement of Foley’s work, Father Mitch Pacwa, host of EWTN Live, whimsically wrote: “The connections Dr. Foley draws between the saints and his featured beverages may be as strained as some of the cocktails, but they are just as interesting.”
Not surprisingly, the Foleys are considering sequels: what about cocktails for Irish saints? American saints? But for now, they are happy with Drinking with Your Patron Saints, which lists more than 700 causes and 100 saints. “All you have to do is look up a cause and find the saint who patronizes it,” he said. “In one shot you’ll find the perfect intercessor in Heaven for your petition and the perfect drink to toast him with when he comes through for you.”
As a final note, Foley mentioned that his favorite cocktail is the White Lady in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. It consists of vodka, gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and egg white with confectioners’ sugar. “It requires too much prep time for daily use,” he said, “but if you want to impress someone, this is a great drink to serve.”