Artisans have always had a place in Benedictine monastic tradition. In Chapter 57 of his Rule, Saint Benedict speaks of the desired humility in the community's artisans. They may create items which are useful, or pieces which grace the monastery in beauty. Their items, both beautiful and useful, are sold at the Art and Heritage Place at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph, Saint Scholastica Convent Gift Shop in St. Cloud and elsewhere.
Monastic artisans pursue their craft for the sheer love of doing it: to make an article of beauty and to share the fruits of their work with others. In a recollected atmosphere, the work becomes a prayer which can speak of God and the beauty of creation.
Today the Artisan Studios, a former maintenance shop, provide open and versatile areas for creating and teaching the arts. Sisters and local women artists weave, paint, sew, quill, tat and make paper, cards, scarves, candles and a host of other goods. They form a supportive community for each other in this workplace. The studios also serve as an area for preparing and packaging items for sale.
Artisans in their creations, and all who view or use them, are encouraged and motivated by Saint Benedict's comment on the role of artisans: "That in all things God may be glorified" (l Pet 4:11 quoted in the Rule 7:9).
Reflections from Monastic Artisans
"My love of beauty is satisfied in working with colorful floss, creating beautiful embroidery. Also, it is a quiet, contemplative activity."
"Making pressed flower designs for cards is a spiritual unfolding for me as I observe the entire life cycle of the flower. It nourishes my spirit and helps me grow into a better person."
"I enjoy making rosaries—a powerful prayer in faith. It is also good therapy for arthritis. There is joy in seeing the finished product displayed in a beautiful box."
"Besides the satisfaction of being relaxed when busy with my hands in crocheting, embroidering and cross-stitching, there's also a swelling of pride in the talent of our community."
"Capturing nature on paper in photography gives me a feeling of an intense presence of God in flowers and changing seasons."
"In quilling, a lost art, I can use my imagination. I can quill, be quiet and be in the presence of God—all at the same time."
"It's relaxing and so satisfying to create a craft people appreciate and enjoy—candles embellished with broken pieces of colored glass."
at the Monastery
The Sisters have been making beeswax candles since Sister Isabel McDonnell opened the candle shop in 1923. A line of apprentices followed her, including Sister Carolinda Medernach in 1934, Sister Ruthelda Klein in 1960, Sister Elaine Schindler in 1992 and Sister Benet Frandfrup in 2005. Sister Benet makes the Easter candle for Saint Benedict's Monastery and Saint Scholastica Convent, and cupboards full of candles for liturgies and for sale.
To view a video of Sister Benet explaining the candle making operation, click here.
Doris Steinfeldt, OSB, card making