- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Saying Hail Marys over a pint of Guinness has become a popular happy hour activity for some local Catholics.

More than 200 people in their 20s and 30s packed into Pat Troy’s Ireland’s Own pub in Alexandria to eat, drink and pray alongside friends Monday night.

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, 68, who recently was named archbishop of Baltimore, led a dialogue about the mystery of evil at the kickoff session of this summer’s “Theology on Tap” sessions.

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington brings priests and lay speakers to local bars once a week to attract young Catholics eager to converse and mingle.

“It’s an unorthodox venue with orthodox talks,” said Kenneth Wolfe, 34, who was holding a glass of Scotch. “That’s very hard to find.”

Mr. Wolfe, who has been attending the Arlington discussions since they began seven years ago, said Archbishop O’Brien’s “rock-solid conservative Catholic talk” contrasts with the “ ’kumbaya”-type sermons” that he has heard at some local parishes.

The speakers have drawn a broad Christian audience during otherwise quiet nights, said listeners in the pub, which was decorated with Irish and American flags and framed military memorabilia.

Archbishop O’Brien’s talk Monday night focused on the need to recognize intrinsic good and evil and the importance of prayer.

“We speak of abortion as ‘therapeutic,” saving or helping the health of the mother. We speak of living together before marriage — fornication — as some kind of love,” he said. “There’s always a nice word we can attach to it, rather that admit and describe what the evil is.”

Catholic priests should be more vocal against abortion, he said, especially as election periods approach.

The Rev. Richard A. Mullins, who spoke about moral relativism during a session in April, said the breadth and clarity of the chats has led multiple people to convert to Catholicism.

“It’s profound because people only hear the stories of how the church is dying in Detroit, Chicago and Rust Belt churches, but in many places, it’s thriving and it’s alive and it’s active,” he said.

The Theology on Tap program began 26 years ago in the Archdiocese of Chicago to serve as a forum for young Catholics to link their faith with their daily lives.

Kate Ebeler, a 26-year-old missionary, has visited various Theology on Tap sessions across the country. She said Monday night’s discussion topped her previous experiences because of the energetic young crowd.

“The concept of the bar for our age [group] is, you go to the bar to meet people to date and to get drunk, and I think Theology on Tap is changing that,” Miss Ebeler said.

The program also gives listeners, some of whom are newcomers to the church, a chance to ask questions in a relaxed setting.

“I was really starving for this,” said Danylo Fedoryka, 29. A musician with the Celtic rock band Scythian, Mr. Fedoryka said he is constantly on the move and finds it difficult to connect with a young-adult Christian community.

Pat Troy’s has been the favorite venue for Theology on Tap over the last three years. The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., holds its weekly sessions at Ireland’s Four Fields pub and restaurant in Northwest.

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