Clement VIII: College Founder and baptizer of the coffee bean

Clement VIII is an important figure in the history of the Scottish Church. During the Reformation, when Catholics were heavily persecuted, and many were driven out of their country, some clergy had made their way to Rome and pleaded with the Pope for a place where young Scots could be educated.  A group of Scottish Jesuits, who were already present in Rome, supported this request and Pope Clement finally agreed to it. The Papal Bull was written on December 5th 1600 and the Scots College eventually was opened in 1602. For the past number of years we have had the privilege of celebrating Mass in a private chapel of St Mary Major’s Basilica where our founder’s tomb is located.

Clement VIII is also well known for welcoming the coffee bean into the Christian West. His advisors were hoping it would be banned because it had been brought by the Muslims, with whom they had been at war, so they called it the ‘drink of the devil’. The Roman Pontiff, intrigued by this exotic drink, demanded to try it before making a decision. He delighted in this wonderfully stimulating beverage and said, “This devil’s drink is delicious. We should cheat the devil by baptising it.” Thus it was given his blessing and then spread throughout the Christian world.

Today coffee has become probably one of the most popular drinks in the West and it is an integral part of the life of a Scottish seminarian. Without it,  studying philosophy and theology would be almost impossible; it would be like climbing up a steep mountain without taking any water.

Remember, the next time you are sipping your dark brew,  say in your heart ‘Deo Gratias!’ and thank Pope Clement VIII as well.

Christopher Doig – Philosophy II

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