I have a family friend who became a nun later in life. I remember going to her first profession and final profession of vows when I was younger, and lo and behold, this year marks her 25th year of religious life…which will be celebrated as a silver jubilee!
As with any celebration, I like to commemorate with an appropriate gift. And what does one get a nun? Surely she must have an ample assortment of religious jewelry, knick-knacks, and stationary. I started my search online with some terms that might help me find an appropriate card. I knew “Congratulations on your 25 years of religious life!” was not going to be common fodder at my local Hallmark, but the vast expanse of internet certainly had a few options from which to choose.
With that part complete, I continued searching on the site to take a look at the gift items. I was intrigued by the Abbey scented soaps, made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. There were so many different scent varieties- it was truly remarkable! I wish I could smell them all through the screen (though the descriptions helped a bit, as did my imagination). These handcrafted items are not only made with natural ingredients but also a dose of holy water, and each batch is prayed over. Interesting!
As the story goes, what started out as something they made out of necessity became a source of value and joy that the nuns rediscovered in the present day. They use modern techniques to make the soap but with the same careful attention to detail that they use in all their handcrafted items. A motto is included on each product listing: “The work of our hands- made for your hands and body.”
I delved a little deeper to find other everyday products that are handmade by those in a religious calling. There are several that I became interested in- lip balm, body scrubs, jellies, chocolate truffles, and Mystic Monk coffee! I just think there is something to be said about products made by human hands with intention, and using that work as a form of prayer or meditation. Whether I am religious or not or believe in the same tenets as the artisan does, does not really matter to me. I find products made in this way to have a unique appeal- almost a mysticism about them- and that they are just as affordable as those that are mass-produced. I can see these hand-forged items becoming affordable luxuries on my shopping list, as I not only engage my senses as I use them, but reflect on the way that conscious intention yields results different than those generated by workers who are mindlessly and dispassionately completing their tasks.
Getting back to my family friend’s gift, I ended up purchasing some of the fancy, carefully handcrafted essential oil infused soaps, a “Woman of God” pen and bookmark, and a few other items to create a gift basket. I carefully decided upon a mix of mainly “consumable” items so as not to take up too much space, create clutter, or be one more Jesus mug to add to the collection. I am thrilled that I was able to find some items that touch upon a religious motif or history but are still “layperson items”. I hope she finds them as unique as I have!