There is a long tradition in monasteries of manufacturing products that are sold locally, or more widely, in order to support the life of the community. Since they are usually self-contained, this type of business can ensure their financial independence. In addition, many religious orders see great value in pursuing hands-on work that complements the more contemplative aspects of their vocation. Here are five examples of this dynamic in action.
- Bourbon Fruitcake/Bourbon Fudge/Cheese: The Abbey of Gethsemani, in Trappist, Kentucky, was home to the well-known spiritual writer Thomas Merton for most of his life. This community now supports itself through the sale of bourbon fruitcake, bourbon fudge, and various kinds of cheese, through its business, Gethsemani Farms.
- Chartreuse: This classic herbal liqueur, produced for centuries by monks of the Carthusian order is now bottled in Voiron, France, near the site of the order’s first and most prominent monastery, La Grande Chartreuse.
- Hams/Bacon/Canadian Bacon/Smoked Turkey: The monks and nuns of New Skete, an Eastern Orthodox monastic community in upstate New York, specialize in smoked meat products, as well as cheesecake and cheese.
- Toner and Ink Cartridges: The monks of Our Lady of Spring Bank Cistercian Abbey in Sparta, Wisconsin, have an online business, LaserMonks.com, selling toner, ink cartridges and other office supplies.
- Wooden Coffins: Handcrafted by the monks of the New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, Iowa, the sale of these wooden caskets provides income for the community.