Brew Evangelization: The Ongoing Renaissance of Monastic Beer
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This renewal is important for monastic life in providing another opportunity for monks to produce their own goods and to sustain their monasteries (in an age when many of their traditional farming practices are in decline; see an odd example in Mepkin Abbey’s controversy with PETA). St. Benedict affirms the necessity of the monk’s work: “When they live by the labor of their hands, as our fathers and the apostles did, then they are really monks” (Rule, ch. 48). Benedict also states that “the monastery should, if possible, be so constructed that within it all necessities, such as water, mill and garden are contained, and the various crafts are practiced” (ch. 66).
Although this self-sufficiency is meant, in part, to insulate the monks from the world, the crafts Benedict mentions are important to provide an opportunity for the monks to witness to society. St. Benedict foresees the contribution of the monk on society: “Whenever products of these artisans are sold, those responsible for the sale must not dare to practice any fraud. . . . The evil of avarice must have not part in establishing prices, which should, therefore, always be a little lower than people outside the monastery are able to set, so that in all things God may be glorified (ch. 57, quoting 1 Pt 4:11). Though speaking of prices in particular (although aren’t Trappist beers the most expensive?), Benedict wants the monks to glorify God when they enter into contact with the outside world through their products.