Column: Make gift-giving a religious experience

by Father Mark Goldasich

He’s almost never let me down before, but this time he did. I’m cutting him some slack, though, as I suspect the mess on Wall Street has kept him very busy.

The person I’m talking about is St. Anthony of Padua, finder of lost items (like stock dividends). My missing item is some coffee. When I contacted the place where I bought it on the Internet and explained my dilemma, I received a prompt, but most unusual response: “Let’s say a prayer to St. Anthony, and if it still doesn’t arrive in a couple of days, let us know and we will ship another.”

When’s the last time customer service anywhere mentioned St. Anthony? You can bet this retailer is no ordinary group of people. My coffee suppliers are Carmelite monks in Wyoming, and my e-mail contact there is Brother Elias.

I’d just written to him last Friday before heading into The Leaven. Imagine my surprise as I was preparing the nation page for this week’s edition and saw a story on the Catholic News Service wire about some coffee roasting monks. A closer look at the article revealed that these were “my” monks being featured, and quoted often within the story was none other than Brother Elias. I hope that you’ll check out the story of Mystic Monk Coffee on page 10.

Buying coffee from monks started me thinking about the upcoming gift-buying season. It’s no secret that the economy has entered a rough time — just ask St. Anthony — and retailers are already sweating over the impact it will have on holiday purchases. I’d like to propose that we all “multitask” our gift-giving this year. In other words, why not buy something that is not only unique and makes the recipient of the gift happy, but also helps out some very deserving people: Catholic women and men religious?

Many religious orders, as a way to support themselves, produce goods and goodies for sale. An inventive soul by the name of Will Keller has gathered a large collection of what’s available from some “abbeys, convents, monasteries and hermitages” into one catalog, called Monastery Greetings. (You can view it online at: www.MonasteryGreetings.com, or call (800) 472-0425 to receive a print catalog.)

If you think that all that’s available from these religious orders is fruitcake, then you are sadly mistaken. I suspect that I’ve gained at least five pounds just leafing through the catalog. Yes, fruitcake is there, but so are Trappist preserves, Nun Better cookies, Monastery Pray-lines, St. Benedict Grilling Sauce, Trappistine candy, creamed honey, and even Monks of New Skete dog biscuits. In addition to the food items, there are CDs, books, plaques, candles, wind chimes, and all sorts of rosaries, crosses and statues.

Closer to home are the Benedictine men at Conception, Mo., who run Printery House (featuring beautiful Christmas cards and many other products), and the Benedictine women of Clyde, Mo., who produce soaps, lotions, and other items. (For more information, see www.printeryhouse.org and www.monasterycreations.com.)

So, what about my missing Mystic Monk coffee? Well, a new batch was sent out, via FedEx this time, and it’s presently in Henderson, Colo., making its way to me. By the time you read this column, I’ll have had my first delicious cup. I plan to enjoy it while working on my Christmas gift list, pairing up people with items from these religious orders. Hm, I wonder who can use a Dead Sea salt body care kit?

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