Five Years in Heaven. A beautiful book full of wisdom, laughter and heartwarming moments between a young man and a nun. John Schlimm, author of this lovely story about his friendship with artist-nun Sister Augustine. If you want to read a book cover to cover, this is just the one for you.
Alongside the release of his highly-anticipated book, John is encouraging the social media world to participate in Thank a Nun Day. Thank a Nun Day is an organized social media effort that invites participants of all ages from around the world to unite under the hashtag #ThankANun to share messages of gratitude to the Catholic nuns — past and present — who have made a difference in their lives. For more information check out the Thank a Nun Day website.
Enter to win Five Years in Heaven here:
John was gracious enough to sit down with me for a few minutes this past week to chat on his book. Below is the video (I’m sorry in advance but I had some technical issues and the video recorded a little slow, but the audio is great and it’s worth checking out John’s dynamic personality live, even though there is some video lag. I’m fixing it for next time! So enjoy the looks-dubbed-over video).
Q&A with John Schlimm, Author of Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship That Answered Life’s Greatest Questions
1) Before you met Sister Augustine, where were you with your faith life? And I’m sure you are still experiencing the fruits of the friendship even now. What’s the most recent insight you’ve had as you’ve told your story about Sister to the world?
I was 31 years old when I met 87-year-old Sister Augustine. Like many people – from my fellow Gen-Xers to Baby Boomers, and every other generation around and in between us – I was in search of meaning, direction, and answers.
I had lots of questions about my faith life: How can we wrap our mind around the existence of God? Is it a sin to doubt God? Why does God let bad things happen, especially to good people? Why isn’t God answering my prayers?
In Five Years in Heaven, I share how Sister Augustine and I explored those and so many of the other universal questions we all have in this life, no matter who we are or where we are. No topic was ever off limits, from death, forgiveness, and the existence of God, to evil, sin, rejection, creativity, and the daily challenges that can either be roadblocks or stepping-stones.
While working on the book, the greatest insight I had was in realizing how truly timeless and relevant Sister Augustine’s answers and lessons are, today more than ever!
2) My senior year of college, I took an independent study led by a Sister. Every Friday, I went to have lunch at the convent. I’ll never forget the impact she had on my life. Our talks were some of my fondest memories in college. If you could sum up what you learned from Sister Augustine in a few sentences, what would it be?
In showing me how to navigate the hardships of life and opening my eyes to the beauty that every moment holds, Sister Augustine gave me a glimpse of Heaven right here on earth. It’s her answers, lessons, and glimpse of the divine that I’m so excited to share with readers in Five Years in Heaven.
My friend taught me that sharing our lives, work, and wisdom with one another ensures that there truly is no beginning or end to the precious circle of life.
3) For many who don’t have the opportunity to befriend someone with so much wisdom and honesty, what can they to do improve their lives — faith life in particular — when they are feeling lost?
Through Five Years in Heaven, every reader will now have Sister Augustine to guide and mentor them, too. She was a brilliant beacon in the darkness for me.
To someone who is feeling lost, I would say to them: I hear you, and you are not alone. You have a purpose on this earth, and so many gifts to discover within you and to share with the world. Each challenge you face is one more opportunity to become stronger by facing those hardships head-on with humility, faith, and determination.
I have often been carried on the wings of Ecclesiastes 3:11, “God makes everything beautiful in its time.” Through the joys and the sorrows of this life, Sister Augustine taught me that God makes each of us beautiful in our time as well.
I would also tell them to remember these words from Sister Augustine: “Each step, whether in happiness or in sadness, is a gift. What we do with those gifts is what makes all the difference.”
4) I’m blessed to have a lot of priest pals. I know in my heart that it is a calling and a charism to be friends with these men. If you had one piece of advice for anyone who is friends with a sister, priest or religious, what would it be?
Ask them questions – many, many questions. And then be quiet and listen – really listen.
5) Let’s talk about the beer part of your life. I know my readers are itching to know … What was it like growing up in a brewing family? What are some of your most endearing memories of that?
I’m the great-great grandson of Straub Brewery founder Peter Straub, who started our brewery in the 1870s. Located in St. Marys PA, today at 143 years old, we are an American Legacy Brewery and the third oldest brewery in the United States.
Our brewery and legacy are great gifts that I thank God for every day. My great-great-grandfather has long been a courageous and visionary role model for me – He was a faith-driven man, a respected businessman, a generous humanitarian, and a good friend and family man. These are roots I’m proud to have my feet firmly planted upon.
Before writing Five Years in Heaven, I wrote several cookbooks – many were beer themed, such as my newest one, The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour: Over 325 Recipes for Your Favorite Bar Snacks & Beer Cocktails. In fact, one of the storylines threaded throughout the memoir is my effort to write the world’s largest beer cookbook ever published.
Over the years, my cousins at the brewery were happy to have me writing cookbooks and celebrating beer in that way. I think they feared that if I got my hands on the production line, it would turn into the scene from I Love Lucy when Lucy and Ethel are working in the chocolate factory – total mayhem. HA!
Growing up, like most young people, I wasn’t fully aware of the blessing my family was handed. It was only when I got older that I took an active interest in our history and in helping to use the gift of our brewery to impact charitable causes. Today, I sit on the board of directors at Straub Brewery, and am getting to explore and be part of a whole new, exciting side of the beer business.
6) Did you and Sister ever talk about alcohol? If so, what did you guys talk about?
Yes, we did. In fact, Sister Augustine’s grandfather, Valentine, started a whiskey distillery in the early 1900s. In Chapter 8: God’s Time, Sister and I have a fun conversation about our ancestors and their similar journeys. Readers will get a good laugh out of that.
Even though she took her name from St. Augustine, who is the patron saint of brewers, Sister said she tried a beer only once and didn’t really care for it. She did, however, love my double chocolate cake made with Straub American Lager when I took her a slice one afternoon.
I like to think that Sister’s grandfather and my great-great-grandfather may have also crossed paths, and perhaps they enjoyed a few boilermakers together using their respective creations!
7) I can’t get away without asking these two questions: What is your favorite style of beer? What is the best beer you’ve ever had?
So many beers, so little time! HA!
I love American Amber Lagers. I’ve tried a lot of them across the country, but I keep coming back to my family’s Straub American Amber Lager.
In addition to our flagship American Lagers, we are blessed to have a genius head brewer named Vince Assetta, who also develops delicious craft beers, such as our Straub Kolsch, Vienna Lager, Maibock, Pilsner, Hefeweizen, Altbier, Oktoberfest, India Pale Lager, and many others. So, I get to enjoy a broad spectrum of brews year-round.
To everyone reading this, the next time you’re in Western Pennsylvania, please stop by Straub Brewery and see us. We even have what’s called the Eternal Tap, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: visitors get to sample beer fresh off the assembly line.
8) How do you see our Catholic faith and beer/wine/liquor fitting together?
I have always loved that Jesus’s first miracle took place at a party and was turning water into wine (some scholars even claim that the water was actually turned into beer).
For me, Straub Brewery has been an inspiring vehicle through which I’ve gotten to explore my own God-given gifts as a writer and I’ve gotten to join our brewery team in impacting important charitable causes. Our brewery and legacy have been my roots and my wings in more ways than I could ever express.
I also have two cousins on the brewery side of the family who are currently Catholic priests: Fr. Paul Taylor and Fr. Herald Brock (His brother, Bill Brock, is president and CEO of Straub Brewery). And one of Peter Straub’s children was a priest, my great-great uncle Fr. Gilbert Straub.
Faith and fun are definitely two buzz words upon which my family is happily grounded.
In August 2014, John’s new cookbook The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour: Over 325 Recipes for Your Favorite Bar Snacks & Beer Cocktails was released. It features delicious bar bites – from Sizzling Sriracha Peanuts to Taproom Tacos to Blitzed Bean Soup – and beer cocktails, chuggers, shots, shooters, chasers,punches, floats, and shakes, with nearly 1,000 related pairing suggestions using today’s most popular craft and seasonal beer styles.
He was gracious enough to share one of his favorite recipes with us! Check it out and buy this book. It’s a must-have for the bookshelf.
Beach Party Punch
Whether by beach, lake, creek, pool, or even rain puddle, for that matter, kick back and enjoy this punch, which takes the best that life has to offer and translates it into each lingering sip. Balance the rum, vodka, amaretto, and gin quartet with your go-to choice of Pale Lager, or a Fruit Beer or Kölsch you haven’t gotten to try yet.
- 4 ounces rum
- 4 ounces vodka
- 4 ounces amaretto
- 4 ounces gin
- 24 ounces Pale Lager, Fruit Beer, or Kölsch
- 1 (12-ounce) can Sprite or ginger ale
- 8 ounces orange juice
- 8 ounces pineapple juice
- Garnish with your choice of orange slices, pineapple chunks, and maraschino cherries (optional)
Combine all the ingredients, except the optional garnishes, in a medium-size to large punch bowl, stirring well. Garnish as desired, including freezing some orange slices, pineapple chunks, and maraschino cherries inside an ice mold.
Yields 10 to 12 servings