College Students Start a Coffee Business Inspired by Prayer and Saints
Religious Roast Coffee has expanded into Little Way of Perfection.
When Madeleine Sri and Caden Bennett met as students at Benedictine College, little did they know they would end up engaged to be married and co-owners of a thriving business that helps people grow in their faith through coffee. And they haven’t even graduated yet.
Sri and Bennett came up with their business, Little Way of Perfection, soon after they met during their freshman year at Benedictine, a Catholic liberal arts college in Atchison, Kansas.
Originally known as Religious Roast Coffee, the soon-to-be married couple’s business has grown to include clothing, accessories, stickers and more, in addition to their popular roasted coffee, available in a variety of flavors, ground or as whole beans.
The two started dating the week before the country went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and, as was the case with many others, they found themselves bored while at home. One day, Bennett had the idea to start a Catholic coffee business. And the next day he had a website, logo and business plan ready.
“Caden is a big go-getter, [an] ideas person, and I am good at making a plan happen and working out all the little details to get there, so we make a pretty great team,” Sri said in an interview with CNA.
Bennett explained how he felt the Lord calling him and how his own morning routine inspired the idea for Religious Roast Coffee.
“I was inspired to start this company from my own prayer. Jesus kept leading me to become more aware of him and let him encounter me in every moment of my day so that I could give every moment to him,” he said. “As I grew in this invitation from Our Lord, it centered around beginning my day with a morning offering so that the first thing I did each day was talk with Jesus and give him everything.”
“One morning as I was making coffee and praying the Morning Offering,” he continued, “I had the idea of pairing the first thing we all do in the morning — make a cup of coffee — with also inviting God into the first moments of our day. From this came the idea of Religious Roast Coffee.”
In the fall of 2020, the two launched several labels with an image of a saint on each, along with a Morning Offering asking for the intercession of that particular saint. The idea was to have people pray while their morning coffee brewed.
“Nobody else had this idea at the time — now there are a few who’ve hopped on the idea — so it was so much fun to name all the different coffee flavors after different saints and invite our customers to grow closer to them in their mornings,” Sri explained. “Ultimately, we started this business to be a tool to help people grow in deeper intimacy with Christ.”
“One of our favorite professors here at Benedictine said about prayer that ‘in order to pray at all times, you must first pray for a time,’ and this is really what the heart of our business is all about,” she continued.
“We don’t want people to just stop and ‘check the box’ of their morning prayer by praying the Morning Offering on our bag, but we hope that it is a tool to begin a time of longer and deeper contemplation in order to be in dialogue with God for the entirety of their day.”
Bennett added: “Just as the saints lived so beautifully united to Jesus in every moment from the early mornings, washing dishes, the joy of the day, and even the mundane task, so too are we called to live with Christ at all moments.”
The pair will graduate this December with degrees in theology and get married soon after.
Recently, they had more ideas of ways people can be reminded to pray throughout the day — such as stickers with prayers that can be placed on a bathroom mirror — and so the company expanded from Religious Roast Coffee to Little Way of Perfection.
“We then changed our brand name to Little Way of Perfection because, ultimately, what we want to do is to invite people to reach spiritual perfection through being brought further into God through prayer but also to embrace the ‘little way’ of allowing God’s grace and mercy to always work through you,” Sri said.
The name, and goal, of their business is also significant in that it’s inspired by two female saints: St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Ávila.
“St. Teresa of Ávila talks about the ‘Way of Perfection’ and how it is possible in this life to reach spiritual perfection, but this comes from detachment from the sinful pleasures of the world and striving for humility and pure love of God,” Sri explained. “St. Thérèse of Lisieux is famous for her ‘Little Way’ in that we are far too small to achieve sainthood on our own and we must have total abandonment to the merciful love of God.
“We want our customers to be inspired by the reality that they can become a saint through loving God with your entire heart and choosing him above all things, but also to remain little and to do little things out of love and humility for God.”
The different coffee flavors are also inspired by the saint featured on each bag. For example, Little Flower Cinnamon Hazelnut is said to have a floral smell — hence St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower. Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a medium roast with a sweet, buttery caramel flavor. Other roasts include Holy Family Hazelnut; Love and Roastsponsibility St. John Paul II Medium Roast; Early Church, Early Morning Saints Peter and Paul Roast; and Monte Caffino Benedictine Breakfast Blend.
Each bag also includes a Morning Offering prayer, which reads: “Heavenly Father I offer you this day, all that I think, do and say. May everything I do begin with your inspiration and continue with your help, uniting everything in the Holy Spirit and what was done by our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
“Making your morning coffee is something that we usually wouldn’t think of as being an opportunity to pray, but actually every simple moment is a perfect time to talk to God,” Sri said. “We hope that our products remind people that God is present in every moment and to make every moment an offering to him.”