Everyone knows you can buy cheese, fruitcake, and really good beer from monks, but those aren’t the only businesses that these holy men dabble in. Here are some stranger things you can acquire from them.
The monks of New Melleray Abbey came to Iowa from Ireland in 1849 to escape the potato famine. To support themselves, they've been selling caskets wholesale to families in the area since 1999; their products are made from “native wood crafted with skill and prayer.”
The Benedictine monks of St. Joseph Abbey in southern Louisiana also sell caskets, but ran into some trouble with the state board—it's illegal in Louisiana to sell “funeral merchandise” unless you’re a licensed funeral director. After five years battling in court, the monks finally won the right to sell their products in 2013.
2. and 3. Dog Training and Treats
If you find yourself with a dog that is unusually hard to train, turn to the monks of New Skete. This monastery offers helpful advice and tips for keeping your pooch in line. They sell a 2-disk DVD series that gives you the low-down on how to train your dog with the New Skete Approach.
If you want appropriate biscuits to go with your dog lessons, New Skete also sells dog treats. The snacks are made with parsley and mint to keep your pup’s breath fresh. You can buy in bulk or just one bag.
4. Lip balm
The Benedictine Monks of St Augustine's Abbey, located in Great Britain, sell hand creams and lip balms made with organic beeswax and other natural ingredients. The monks developed the recipes and blended the ingredients themselves.
5. Ski lessons
Cistercian monks who dwell near the Alps take advantage of their surroundings by training young athletes on the slopes. After settling in the area after World War II, they set up a skiing boarding school known as Skigymnasium Stams. The program is very successful; many of Austria's skiing champions went there.
If you ever wanted to smell like a Pope, now is your chance. The Monks of The Community Of Saint Benedict sell a whole slew of interesting gifts and knick-knacks, including bath salts and fragrances. You can even buy cologne made from the recovered recipe of Pope Pius IX, who held the papacy from 1846 until his death in 1878. The monks tried to recreate the formula by using the same ingredients and following the complex recipe closely. It's rare that you can call your cologne “historic,” but this one might fit the bill.
7. Cat advent calendars
Monastery Greetings sells items made by abbeys, convents, monasteries, and hermitages. The website sells roughly 1600 products and works with some 75 monasteries around the world. Founder Will Keller works to help monasteries get their products online and more accessible. Thanks to this website, you can now get a kitten advent calendar for all the crazy cat people you know.
8. Hot sauce
Known as “Monk Sauce,” this spicy condiment comes in two varieties: red habanero and green habanero. The peppers are grown in the gardens of Subiaco Abbey by Benedictine monks. The website promises that the taste is “not only massively hot, but also one that is intensely flavorful.”
9. A drink at a bar
Japan takes brewing a step further with a Buddhist Monk-run bar called Vow'z Bar. The bar is meant to be a more casual environment for spirituality. "When people have had a few drinks, it’s often easier to communicate with them on spiritual matters here than it is talking at a temple," Yoshinobu Fujioka, Buddhist priest and owner of Vow'z Bar, told CNN Travel. The bar hosts events for visitors to come and discuss Buddhism.
10. Bonsai Trees
Cistercian monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit have been tending to a bonsai garden in Georgia for 35 years. They offer miniature plants, pottery, and accessories at their Abbey Garden Center. Visitors are also encouraged to create and tend to their own bonsai plants.
BONUS: Inks and toners
The Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank was known for making their money by selling ink and toner cartridges online. Their website, LaserMonks.com, came about when their superior, Reverend Bernard McCoy, noticed how expensive toner was. The website was a huge success and made $4.5 million in revenue in 2008. Unfortunately, as a result of debt and dwindling membership, the abbey closed in 2011.