Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Monastic Enterprise

Bob points me to an article in the New York Times about some monks in Wisconsin that sell printer cartridges to raise the money necessary to keep the monastery going:

Ever entrepreneurial, the women also sell products made by other monasteries, including chocolates, pralines and a barbeque sauce called “Burnt Sacrifice.” They sell Benevolent Biscuits, dog treats the monks here make on cookie trays in the monastery kitchen.

Their latest product is a laser printer cartridge made with soybean oil instead of petroleum. Holding up a newly printed page, Ms. Caniglia said, “It’s environmentally safe, the print is great,” and it produces more pages per cartridge than an oil-based cartridge at a lower price. “It’s a no-brainer.” (source)

I think it's brilliant that most communities have to produce something that the ordinary world finds valuable. It helps keep such communities grounded. It's even more interesting, from my perspective, at least, when that enterprise involves the hands-on work of the monks. For instance, both the book store and the guest house at Holy Cross require a LOT of attention from the monks, which mean that the people that patronize those businesses get to interact with the monks themselves.

Monks and nuns around the world do all kinds of interesting things. I've always been fascinated by the Monks at New Skete raising German Shepherds. Or how about Mother Noella Marcellino, who did her Ph.D. and a Fulbright Scholarship becoming a world-renowned expert on Cheese.

Much has been written about the spirituality of such labour. Unfortunately, our society has lost something along the way when it comes to the meaning of creative work. A recent long New York Times feature on the meaning of work noted the rise in popularity of shows like "Dirty Jobs" and "Deadliest Catch" as evidence of a kind of nostalgia for the perceived meaningfulness of blue collar work. The feature article was written by Matthew Crawfrod, who adapted the essay from his new book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work.

This is about craft. I appreciate good craftsmanship in all it's forms because it shows a kind of a cooperation with creation. Shoddy workmanship suggests disharmony with creation. And I'm not just talking about crafts that involve physical stuff. Consider the craft of a well-delivered sermon or the craft of doing good liturgy!

Alas, the days when Shop class was a mandatory part of education are slipping. More and more kids are connecting on Facebook rather than under the hood of a car.



Felicity Pickup said...

re "the craft of doing good liturgy!"

Oh! So that's what's going on at my parish church??

I know that "doing it right" or "very well)" is considered very important chez nous. And I sort of get the theoretical underpinnings of that but I haven't been able to relate emotionally to that ideal.

Your take on craft may get me closer to seeing Altar Guild work as something more than churchy housework.

Tay Moss said...

Take a look at the essay by Matthew Crawford and see what you think....