Monks in the Money

lasermonksbookLaserMonks in Sparta, Wisconsin will sell you toner and fair trade beverages, but prayers are free. And who doesn’t need a few extra blessings when it comes to buying office supplies? Benedictine monks in Tyniec, Poland have created a budding business empire on with food sales via Benedicite. These entrepreneurial holy men sell dozens of products on their website, www.benedicite.pl, as well as through a Polish supermarket chain.

Business is a Good Habit 
Religious orders are trading in traditional crafts like fruitcakes and caramel production for new technologies and trends. Monks in Oregon who store and ship wines, while others opt for goat’s milk, hand creams and soaps to fund their missions. Even the more expected convent industries are getting a boost from Internet marketing. LaserMonks is helping brethren orders by promoting their businesses on LaserMonks’ Web sites, which sell everything from office supplies to gourmet mustards. And a prayer with purchase into the bargain.

Although products purchased from the monks may come at a bit of a premium, consumers seem willing to pay. LaserMonks is selling over $4 million a year.

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What About Those Vows of Poverty?
While LaserMonks is for-profit, all net proceeds go toward to charitable works – a school in Vietnam that teaches computer skills to street kids, domestic abuse shelters in California, and a camp for children living with AIDS. (The abbey itself is still non-profit.) Truth is, it takes money to fight the evils of the world and you can’t cure poverty without cold cash.

St. Benedict taught that monks should live by works, not donations, for the most part. But the businesses are focused on the objective of living expenses and ministerial work. You’re not going to see plasma screens in the monks’ quarters any time soon. You’ll have to visit your local televangelist’s church for that sort of thing.