By Chris Price Arkansas Catholic Staff
Instead of slogging through a shopping center, competing with other shoppers or scrolling endlessly to find the right Christmas gift, you might look to one of the many religious communities across Arkansas and the United States for handmade, one-of-a-kind gifts. Case For Violin
Not only will you get the joy of giving a great gift, you will know your dollars will help support religious communities and their outreach programs. Here is a list of 10 religious communities offering unique gifts that also give to the Church.
Monastery Greetings, a mail-order and online marketplace (monasterygreetings.com), based in Cleveland, sells high-quality products from more than 100 religious communities, including monasteries, convents, abbeys and hermitages around the world, said owner Will Keller. One of their top-selling items is Trappist Preserves, an award-winning product line of 30 flavors of preserves, jellies and marmalades, made by the monks of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Mass., the largest monastic business in the United States. Samplers run from $27.50 for six, $49.95 for 12 and $99.95 for 24 flavors.
The Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Ind., have been selling handmade items in their gift shop since 1996. Known for their Monastery Baked Goods, candles, soaps and religious items, the sisters also produce artwork that adorns more than 30 different greeting and Christmas cards, including “Poinsettia” artwork by Sister Mary Oliver Reising. Each set of six cards sells for $7.50 and includes an inside sentiment with Scripture and envelopes. They may be purchased at monasterygiftshop.org or by calling (812) 367-2500.
They call themselves simple country monks, but the Benedictines at Subiaco Abbey offer a variety of creative products to the public, including books and calligraphy, peanut brittle and hot sauces, candles, soaps and ornaments and urns and wood carvings. Their most popular item, arguably, is their beer, which includes eight types of beer in regular circulation. “We produce about 120 barrels a year,” said brewmaster Brother Sebastian Richey, OSB. The beer is available at the abbey’s taproom at 405 N. Subiaco Ave., on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., and limited package stores around the state. Profits generated from sales go to the continuous care of the abbey’s elder monastic brothers. For more information, log on to countrymonks.biz.
Through Holy Spirit Monastery Gifts, the monks at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit near Conyers, Ga., sell honey, fruit cake, biscotti and four varieties of fudge — chocolate, chocolate walnut, maple walnut and Southern Touch, made with real peach morsels, pecans and a touch of peach brandy. A 12-ounce package of fudge sells for $12.95 on their website, holyspiritmonasterygifts.com, or by calling (800) 592-5203.
St. Scholastica Monastery’s own Sister Macrina Wiederkehr was a prolific best-selling spiritual writer before she died in April 2020, but her words and sage advice live on in her books that make great gifts for family and friends. Her titles, including “A Tree Full of Angels: Seeing the Holy in the Ordinary,” “Behold Your Life: A Pilgrimage Through Your Memories” and “The Flowing Grace of Now: Encountering Wisdom Through the Weeks of the Year” are available at the monastery gift shop or on their website, stscho.org/shop, priced from $12.95 to $22.95.
The Monks of St. Joseph Abbey, located outside New Orleans, make a bevy of items to support themselves, including music, coffee and even caskets, but they are best known for their handmade Monksoap made using saponified oils of coconut, olive and rice bran, distilled water, shea butter and fragrance. “We make between 10,000 and 12,000 bars per year,” said Brother Austin Simon, OSB. Available in 13 festively named scents, including Frankincense & Myrrh, St. Therese's Roses, Solemn Vespers and the seasonal Cloister Christmas and Silent Night, each four-ounce bar sells for $6 on their website, stjosephabbeygiftshop.ecwid.com.
The Little Portion Hermitage and Monastery is the home of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, founded by John Michael Talbot in 1981. After a 2008 fire destroyed parts of the monastery, Talbot’s wife, Viola, used donations to make batches of granola and a business idea was born. Today, the Little Portion Bakery produces Viola's Granola, in regular, sugar-free and gluten-free options, and the seasonal St. Francis Celebration Granola, with dark chocolate and dried tart cherries. The bakery offers small, medium and large Christmas gift boxes of granola and cookies or individual one-pound bags for $14 at littleportionbakery.org or by calling (877) 504-9865.
Since they arrived in Denver and settled in the former rectory of St. Patrick Church in 1988, the sisters of Our Lady of Light Monastery have hoped to relocate to a facility better suited to their contemplative life of prayer, seclusion and poverty. They have acquired land in Byers, Colo., and are raising money to build the new facility by baking and selling Clarisas’ Cookies. The butter cookies are made from scratch, in small batches, with the finest ingredients. A 1.5-pound box, adorned with an image of St. Clare, sells for $15 at capuchinpoorclaresdenver.org.
The Benedictine Monks of Our Lady of Guadalupe sell Abbey Roast and Café 4 Life, made from gourmet Arabica coffee beans that were awarded first prize in the Rio de Janeiro Specialty Coffee Competition for quality, to contribute to the operation and expansion of their monastery. They are the exclusive importers of coffee beans harvested from a family-owned farm in the mountains of Nova Friburgo, Brazil. The monks roast the beans in small batches. A 12-ounce bag of Abbey Roast sells for $12 while a five-pound bag goes for $70. A 12-ounce bag of Café 4 Life, which also supports pro-life organizations, sells for $14.
The Brigittine monks at the Priory of Our Lady of Consolation in Amity, Ore., are known for their small-batch artisan fudge and truffles. With 10 flavors of fudge, including Candy Cane Fudge Royale, and 15 varieties of truffles, these confections are a holiday treat. A 12-ounce box of fudge sells for $17.95, a five-ounce box with four large truffles goes for $18.95 and nine half-ounce petite truffles sell for $20.95 at brigittine.org or by calling (503) 835-8080.
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