Being able to support ourselves by the work of our hands is a key tenet of monastic life. The Rule of St Benedict says, “then they are truly monks when they live by the labor of their hands.” Traditionally Trappist (a nickname for Cistercian) monks did this by farming the land and being expert farmers is what we Trappists were famous for.
Farming kept us busy during the summer, but here in our community at Spencer, MA the monks were looking for work during the off-season when the farm work was less demanding. This was especially true in the years after World War II when hundreds of young men were looking for a more peaceful and spiritual life and they came to Spencer in search of it. One of the more frugal brothers decided to preserve the mint growing in the herb garden outside the community kitchen and sold this preserve down at the Porter’s Lodge at the entrance to the monastery property. After this, some of the cranberries growing on the bogs on the property were added to the repertoire.
We no longer sell the mint jelly because we deemed the artificial green food coloring inappropriate for a monastic product, but we have 30 other flavors that meet our quality and spiritual standards.
As monks we can only enjoy the jams and jellies on Sundays and special feast days, but out in the world every day can be a feast day for you.