I have written frequently about the great consumables and products offered by various monastic communities. This year, happily, there seem to be a number of news outlets taking the time to visit with communities to get the low-down on their wares, and in the process, we learn about more great monastery items, and (happily for us) just in time for Christmas shopping!
Here, for instance we find some discussion of the monastic life of prayer, combined with the news that the Trappistine Nuns at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Virginia have been making what sounds like a terrific Gouda cheese for several years:
Eleven sisters live at the monastery, where their day begins at 3 a.m. At 6:30 a.m., it’s time to have Morning Praise, followed by a half-hour of silent meditation.
On this morning, though, some sisters are missing from the morning formation, and the remaining sisters recite an abbreviated version of the usual prayer. Besides that, several will not stay for meditation. They must go and help the others. . . .
It’s cheese-making day.
[the nuns] have changed from their white tunics, black scapulas and brown leather belts into work pants, tall rubber boots and smocks that burst with sunflowers. Instead of veils, they have tied colorful handkerchiefs around their heads.
It is still dark out, but the lights of the monastery are visible from what the sisters call the “cheese barn.”
The equipment for making Gouda, a mild Dutch cheese, already was set up in the cheese barn when the land was purchased, the remains of a former owner’s expensive undertaking gone defunct. It seemed an ideal opportunity for the nuns. How hard could it be to learn how to make Gouda? “We were so naive,” Sister Smickel said, smiling.
But a couple of Virginia cheesemakers, Jim and Margaret Morse, had heard through word of mouth that some sisters needed help.
“They just showed up on our doorstep and said, ‘Can we help you?’ ” Sister Smickel said. “It was a gift from heaven.”
The cheese must be good; it sells out every Christmas.
“In the past two years, the monks themselves have grown from six to 15 monks and all the new monks are under 25, some right out of high school,” said Susie George, a neighbor of the monks who helped with marketing and computer work for the coffee business . . .
One young man from Australia said he has found his place in life there. Carmelite Brother Paul Marie told CNS in a Nov. 4 phone interview that he was searching for more in life than just “conforming to society” and the Wyoming religious order has provided that for him.
Brother Paul said he discovered the monastery by searching for religious orders online but was initially attracted to the Carmelite order because of the joy and spiritual aspect of the community and the fact that some of his favorite saints — including St. John of the Cross and St. Therese — were Carmelites.
He also found he has a place in the cloistered monks’ coffee business.
That article talks rather more about the coffee business (and the complexity of their annual Christmas Blend) than the monk’s prayer life, but it seems the monks have had a hand in the creation of a romance, as well.
The Trappists of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, GA, are pushing chocolate, among other things:
“The secret of any good fudge is in the last 15 minutes,” Father Delisi said. “It’s all about making sure it’s properly mixed.”
The monks, who created a sensation when they introduced their peach brandy-laden fruitcakes in 2001, are again trying their hand at making sweets. At the Abbey Store, located on the monastery grounds, fudge from the monks’ mother monastery, Gethsemani in Kentucky, is already a popular seller. Father Delisi saw a business opportunity for the Conyers monastery.
“We were already selling fudge from other places, and I’d been thinking about it for years. I thought, ‘Why can’t we sell our own fudge?’” he said. “Our fruitcakes do well, but those are only sold during the Christmas season. We are hoping that the fudge can be a year-round industry for us.”
So Father Delisi began experimenting. He didn’t want to have a liquor-heavy fudge, like the bourbon-flavored fudge of Gethsemani, and after many test batches, he struck a perfect balance.
“I wanted something that was Southern but not too overwhelming,” he said. “So we came up with the idea of diced peaches soaked in peach brandy. That way it doesn’t overwhelm the taste of the fudge.”
Woohoo! Peach Brandy Fudge! I have already tried (and given out as gifts) the Bourbon Fudge from the Gethsemane Monastery, so I’ll have to give this one a whirl. But for the nieces, who are still underage, I’ll keep ordering the incredible chocolate-covered caramels from the (Trappistine, again) nuns from what my Li’l Bro Thom calls “Our Lady of the Mouthwatering Candy” Abbey. My nieces work themselves up all-of-a-doodah if I don’t remember the candies.
Finally, you love the soaps, and hand cremes, now you can see how they are made: our friends at Summit, NJ present a little slide show. Which reminds me, I have to order more lip balm!