Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Surprising links between coffee, Catholicism make for ‘Sacred Grounds’

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Oct. 20, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Elaine Maurici Rising is into coffee – big-time. But she’s into faith and spirituality in a big way, too.

A parishioner at Saints Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Church in Spokane Valley – a church in full communion with Rome, but with its own clergy, hierarchy, and institutional structures – Rising currently owns and operates On Sacred Grounds, a “Coffee, Tea & Specialty Shoppe.” Located in downtown Spokane in historic Steam Plant Square, at 163 S. Lincoln St., On Sacred Grounds is Elaine Maurici Rising’s foray into blending coffee, gourmet teas, and spirituality.

Step from the hustle-bustle of Lincoln Street into the compact space occupied by On Sacred Grounds and you’ll find not only delicious lattés and espresso – and rich, tasty hot chocolate, too – but you’ll find yourself in what Rising’s business card declares is “a tranquil oasis for thoughtful reflection.” For On Sacred Grounds is not only a first-rate coffee and tea specialty shop; it’s also a homey place to browse books on spirituality and related topics by local authors and enjoy the works of regional artists, displays that rotate monthly.

A visit to On Sacred Grounds during the last week of September gave browsers the chance to view icons, ink drawings, watercolors, and Bethlehem olive wood carvings. All for sale, of course, with all but a small percentage of the price going directly to the artist. The same is true for the “new and gently used” books on Catholic themes, Christian topics, and general spirituality, plus some titles of religious fiction.

The blend of coffee and spirituality “just evolved,” Rising said. “It started with books and art. I read in a trade magazine about specialty coffee shops that have invited artists to put up displays of their art. I thought, ‘Okay, I have a wall, let’s decorate it.’ But the books kind of evolved.”

Three separate shelves are devoted to new and used books, fiction and nonfiction. In September, her featured artist was a Palestinian Christian, Bassam Al Hayek. “He had to leave Bethlehem when they had that battle about two years ago,” she said. “He had five minutes to leave his shop – $400,000 worth of equipment and art was kaboom. He’s an immigrant, starting new. His art is a combination of some Byzantine-style icons and some modern pointillism. So I wanted the books I had on hand to reflect the same interests and topics, including spirituality.”

Elaine Maurici Rising chose “On Sacred Grounds” for the name of her shop, she explains, “because of the very close ties between mankind, religion, and coffee.”

Rising illustrates with a story:

“In the 16th century, coffee was making its way into Italy, but some of the local business people were irritated by this because they sold lemonade on the streets, and they didn’t want the competition. So they thought, well, coffee comes from the Middle East, so let’s say something really bad about coffee, like, what good could come out of the Middle East? So they went to Pope Clement VIII [1536-1605] and asked him to condemn coffee because it was from the infidels. So the pope responds that before he condemns coffee he wants to try it first. So guess what? He likes it! According to legend, Clement VIII thought coffee was such an excellent drink that he remarked, ‘We shall fool Satan by baptizing it and making it a truly Christian beverage.’ So you can thank Pope Clement VIII for your espresso.”

Elaine Maurici Rising enjoys telling such stories because, she says, “my faith and my religion come with the stories. It’s not meant to proslytize, it’s just entertaining and informative.”

Rising began her coffee business in 2003 with a mobile coffee stand that she set up at county fairs and the like. After a few months, she set up shop on the premises of South Regal Lumber. “I actually sold, on a little table, my black cup of coffee and bags of coffee at a lumber yard. The owners, two brothers, Harry and John Case, gave me the opportunity to practice my craft, my marketing and salesmanship.”

From there, she bought espresso equipment from another vendor, and in January of this year her business landed in Steam Plant Square.

Rising soon took note that she is located not far from Women’s Hearth (a day center for women) and other social service agencies. “I see myself as a kind of oasis, so people who are troubled can come in from the cold and at least find someone who will lend a compassionate ear.”

At the same time, Rising acknowledges that her business is “a real struggle for me. It is. But I feel the hand of God in my life. I have been blessed by meeting so many wonderful people that I think that I am supposed to continue this work, yes, hopefully to make a profit to support myself and my family. But I think I am supposed to do a greater good. I wouldn’t have had all the blessings I’ve had if God didn’t smile on what I’m trying to do here.”

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