Gifts of Food Made by Catholic Monks

by ologsinquito

A number of monastic orders in the United States help support themselves through sales of jams, jellies, coffee, fudge and fruitcake.

Catholic monasteries were the center of life in Medieval Europe. They were places of learning and prayer. Pilgrims came from far and wide to visit these religious houses, which also served as hotels to weary travelers.

Monasteries also doubled as hospitals. The sick could come and stay until they either recovered or they died. They were cared for by people hired by the monks. Oftentimes, though, one of the monks who was skilled in natural medicine oversaw their treatment.

The rise of Western monasticism began around the sixth century AD, when Saint Benedict of Nursia founded a string of religious houses for men in what is now Italy. It was communal living and all goods were shared.

This style of living, which featured manual labor, prayer and study, then spread throughout the continent.

There are fewer monasteries today, but they still exist. And they still operate as self-sustaining entities that welcome pilgrims, which provides them with some revenue. They also help support themselves with sales of various hand-made products, such as coffee, fudge and fruitcake.

Flickr photo by cale_yu

The Rule of Saint Benedict and How the Goblet Shattered

Saint Benedict lived a very austere life, and this formed the basis for what his now known as the Benedictine Rule. Not all of his monks were able to follow his example. A group of them, who knew about the rigors of monastic life before joining his community, later found it was too much for them. So they devised a plan to get rid of their holy abbot.

In a now famous incident, they tried to give him a drink filled with poison. As they were serving him, Saint Benedict made the Sign of the Cross and the goblet shattered.

Monastic life is one of sacrifice. The monks themselves deny themselves all pleasures, in many times even a full-night's sleep, in order to offer up these sufferings for others. For example, they may pray for conversions, for the sick and dying and for world peace.

St Benedict of Nursia Prays with his Monks, Fresco
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The Brigittine Monks

The Brigittine order was founded in Europe in the 14th century, and is named after Saint Bridget, a Swedish saint. A Brigittine house of men is located in Oregon's Willamette Valley and supports itself through sales of fudge and candy.

They have printed a line on their website, attributed to Saint Benedict - "They are truly monks when they live by the labor of their hands and did our Fathers and the Apostles."

Carmelite Monks Coffee

These monks live in a rural setting, but they're trying to raise money to build a much larger monastery near Yosemite National Park. They roast their own brand of Mystic Monk Coffee, which comes in a variety of flavors. They also sell an assortment of other gifts, such as coffee mugs and travel cups, as well as Mystic Monk hoodies and t-shirts.

The Carmelites are a religious order, which now has male and female communities, that was founded in the 1100s on Mt. Carmel in Israel. Some famous Carmelites were Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Therese the Little Flower.

Assumption Abbey in Missouri

It's not true that there's just one fruitcake in the world, which is continually re-gifted. The Trappist monks at Assumption Abbey in the small town of Ava, Missouri produce fruitcakes that they ship far and wide. A picture on their website shows several of the monks at work creating multiple fruitcakes.

They keep baking these traditional Christmas cakes and selling them on Amazon, because, according to the product description, they are "back by popular demand."

Actually, these two-pound cakes look very good. The monks learned how to bake them from a noted French chef once employed by the Duchess of Windsor.

Saint Benedict of Nursia
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Updated: Feb. 6, 2016, ologsinquito
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


ologsinquito on 10/06/2014

Thanks frank and thank you so much for reading.

frankbeswick on 10/06/2014

You do such a valuable job revealing interesting details of Catholic culture.

Ellen on 10/06/2014

Try some of the fudge made in Amity, Oregon. It's divine.

ologsinquito on 10/26/2013

Hi EmmaSRose, I agree with you and believe these products would carry some blessings, as they're made in an environment filled with prayers. Thank you for reading.

Guest on 10/26/2013

ologsinquinto, This is my first acquaintance with Mystic Monk Coffee! I am sure that it is heavenly.
Whenever I am reminded of products made by monks, I feel that their products, coming from devoted hearts and non-idle hands, are imbued with special blessings.
I consider the giving and receiving of these products to be the best of gifts, true gifts of loving hearts.
Your article honors these worthy endeavors. Thank you.

ologsinquito on 10/24/2013

They are. Thank you for reading and for commenting.

EliasZanetti on 10/24/2013

Interesting article. The fruit preserves should be excellent.

ologsinquito on 10/24/2013

I know what you mean. They'd go great together. Thank you for reading.

jptanabe on 10/24/2013

Those fruitcakes do sound good! I'd like some of the Mystic Monk coffee to go with it too!

ologsinquito on 10/23/2013

What a small world. But I know you've been traveling through Missouri. Convents and monasteries tend to be very peaceful. I didn't know the fruitcakes had such a local following.

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